Brigitta Witt’s passion for environmental responsibility is infectious. “‘Waste not, want not’ is pretty much my mantra,” she says, adding that her colleagues know not to bring plastic water bottles or paper into meetings. Not even her family is immune to her influence. In a recent interview, she recalled a habit her husband has recently developed: “Every time he goes to a hotel now and uses a bar of soap, he wraps it up and brings it home,” she says.
As global head of corporate responsibility at Hyatt, Witt oversees Hyatt’s environmental stewardship, philanthropy, and community engagement efforts, as well as disaster relief and human rights issues. Born in Mexico to a German family, Witt lived in Mexico City before moving to the United States shortly before she turned seven. “If I were to summarize my background, I would say it’s diverse,” she says. “That’s a part of my identity. I adapt easily to different circumstances.”
This diversity carries over to her professional life. Witt has worked for nonprofits, global Fortune 500 companies, and startups. Before joining Hyatt, she oversaw operations and development for Green Dimes, an environment-focused junk-mail-reduction service. But there has been one consistent theme in her work: she’s always been in charge of starting something new. So when Hyatt called in 2007 and told her they were interested in launching a sustainability program, she knew that it would be a great opportunity to continue positively impacting the world.
Since joining Hyatt, Witt has leveraged passion and hard work to launch a corporate sustainability platform called “Hyatt Thrive,” organize a disaster-relief response plan, and supervise Hyatt Community Grants, a program that empowers teams of associates globally to invest in their own communities. She also spearheaded the company’s forward-looking 2020 sustainability strategy, which will focus on efficient use of resources, smart building, and innovation and inspiration—all of which guided development of the recently completed Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, certified LEED Silver.
Her enthusiasm for such projects has played a significant role in Hyatt’s recent successes, but Witt stresses the powerful consequences of simple operational changes and notes that good development should start with an understanding of the business’s impacts, risks, and opportunities. “Understanding these three things will help you to frame a strategy that is really authentic to your company, to your people,” she says.
Witt maintains that good sustainability work includes the people on the ground. Global companies in particular face a number of unique challenges, like developing policy that works in a variety of regions, settings, and circumstances. While working on Hyatt’s 2020 Vision, Witt spent extensive time in the company’s hotels worldwide, gathering insight from those who best understand each individual situation.
Why, exactly, does Witt care so deeply about issues of sustainability? “We have always been and will continue to be a company that cares deeply about our people, our communities, and our planet,” she says. “It’s quite simply the right thing to do, and it’s at the heart of our company’s long-term success.”