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The Member’s Club with a Real Purpose

Trends and Insight 281 Add to collection

CEO at The Conduit Mark Somen on growing up in Kenya, sustainability and changes in consumer consumption

The Member’s Club with a Real Purpose

Mark is currently the CEO for The Conduit in New York and has more than 30 years of hospitality experience. His career began in his native country, Kenya, at the age of sixteen when he led safaris for Abercrombie and Kent. After graduating from Surrey University in England, Mark held positions at the Connaught Hotel in London, and The Pierre Hotel, Four Seasons, China Grill Management, and the Hudson Hotel in New York. Mark was also general manager at Soho House New York and then director of operations for Soho House North America. Mark also held the general manager role at The Tribe in Nairobi, Kenya. Mark was a director at Craft House for five years prior to joining The Conduit, a Craft House client. Mark is the chair of the board for FilmAid International, sits on the board of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, and is an Advisor to A Plastic Planet.


1. Your career in hospitality is impressive. How did you get into hospitality?

Growing up in Kenya, tourism and hospitality was one of the biggest industries. At the age of sixteen, I worked in a kitchen one summer and then a year later I became a safari guide, and from there I was hooked.


2. Have you seen any changes in consumer consumption with regards to sustainability?

I feel the last five years have been instrumental in the consumer telling the industry what they want and don’t want, what is important and what is not. The industry needs to wake up, especially hotels, and be the change they want to see! The hotels that feel putting the card on your pillow about not washing your sheets as their commitment to sustainability is just not acceptable anymore.


3. Tell us about The Conduit, where does the idea of making a sustainable members club come from? And what’s the Conduit’s main goal?

We built The Conduit as a means to bring a community together who were passionate about social and environmental change. Our three co-founders have 'played' in this space for years, and understood the importance of making a commitment to sustainability and positive social change – and doing it in a beautiful building with lovely staff usually over good food and drink – is a winning formula.

The Conduit’s main goals are:

1. We are a recognised global brand for positive impact

2. We have catalysed solutions to global challenges

3. We are financially successful and sustainable

4. We are a blueprint of sustainable hospitality

5. The Conduit is scalable itself to multiple sites


4. Can you tell us some of the most revolutionary (or challenging) sustainable initiatives you have implemented at The Conduit?

Without going into specifics, I think addressing sustainability holistically – in all elements of our business:

– Our community: people passionate about impact and making a difference.

– Our team: as much as possible, finding people who are aligned with our ethos around sustainability and social change. And looking after, nurturing, supporting and developing people. We recruit from different social enterprises – Brigade, Good Hotel, we are starting to work with The Clink too.

– The Building – we had 2 sustainability consultants helping us to be as sustainable as possible during our renovations.

– Food and Drink – passionate about being local, organic and sustainable – did you know that avocados are not sustainable at all?


5. What would your advice be to hospitality brands wanting to move towards sustainability?

Start now! Start yesterday! Do what you can – and if possible, ensure its part of your DNA from day one, or even before that – if possible. And BE AUTHENTIC! No greenwashing – no BS-ing – do it for the right reasons and do what you can.


6. Will luxury ever be sustainable?

Yes. well, depends on what people define luxury as – but absolutely – I think luxury can help drive this change.



Don’t miss  Mark Somen speaking at TREND: Luxury Hospitality & Travel – Sustainability Edition, taking place on the 19th of September at White City House. Last few places available

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Verb Brands, Mon, 09 Sep 2019 13:29:11 GMT