Like many other companies in other industries, Wynn did not foresee a global pandemic upending the world in 2020. But their cast-iron ESG practices and a steadfast adherence to core company values have helped them navigate a difficult business environment with aplomb.

In this interview, board member Betsy Atkins interviews Wynn CEO Matt Maddox. The two discuss Wynn’s initial reaction to COVID in March and the importance of taking care of their communities, alongside how the company’s commitment to “always strive to be better” has enabled them to push forward in their personal battle against the causes of climate change.

And how does the future look for Wynn? “Zero carbon, zero waste resorts.” That’s something all of us can get behind.

Q: How has Wynn adapted their ESG practices in response to COVID?

A: When we first faced the COVID crisis in early March, it was our commitment to “care about everyone and everything” that guided us to make good decisions.

We closed our operations in Las Vegas and Boston to help limit community spread of the virus and keep people safe. We suggested to regulators early on that closing was necessary and the only responsible path to making it through the crisis.

We preserved our company’s culture by continuing to pay all full and part-time employees. We are one of the very few companies in America to do this. We invested more than $250 million in our culture by paying employees their wages, tips and benefits throughout the closure. We knew that staying home was hard work and the thought of asking our 15,000 team members in North America to stay home and tell them they are furloughed was simply contrary to our core values. We also established a fund for employees to access when faced with financial hardship caused by family members with COVID.

“Always strive to be better,” another core value of ours, drove my decision to leverage our operational excellence with a team of leading medical and public health professionals. That allowed us to develop a Health & Safety program, based on the most effective health and safety practices available, that has become the gold standard for our industry.

We took care of our communities by providing relief to first responders and offering food and protection to those suffering the financial impact of the crisis. We donated more than $3 million in personal protective equipment, food and hygiene supplies to organizations in Las Vegas and Greater Boston.

In short, we invested in our employees, worked for the health and safety of our guests, and took care of our communities. We made things better. Like we always do.

Q: How does Wynn communicate its ESG and sustainability practices to its various constituencies including employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders?

A: Wynn publishes a very thorough and comprehensive annual Environmental, Social and Governance Report.

Some highlights from the report include:

  • Encore Boston Harbor was built to the highest environmental standards which anticipated the potential impacts of climate change, receiving an LEED Platinum certification
  • Wynn resorts employees donated over 65,000 hours of global volunteerism in 2019
  • In 2019 Wynn Resorts gave over 15,000 hours of leadership training to domestic employees

Q: Looking to the future, how does Wynn plan to continue to build upon its sustainability and ESG practices? What programs have been put in place to support long term ESG growth?

A: In 2019, Wynn and Encore Las Vegas became the only casino resort in Las Vegas to earn the Great Place to Work certification. The certification is based on a detailed, anonymous survey of our employees—the people who know us best.

Following the 2019 Great Place to Work Survey, department leaders began working with line-level employees to develop action plans to address areas of improvement identified in the survey. The best action plans were distributed to our senior operations committee to share innovative ideas and ultimately improve employee and guest well-being through better communication.

When it comes to future goals, our ultimate goal is aggressive, but achievable: operate zero carbon, zero waste resorts.

Every year we move closer to realizing this by building on past successes, anticipating future needs, and pioneering best-in-class new programs that are engineered to exceed government-regulated standards.

With a circular approach that encompasses our entire supply chain, we constantly examine ways to reduce each of our resorts’ environmental impact in our company’s focus areas of renewable energy, water conservation, waste diversion, recycling, single-use plastic abatement, responsible food sourcing, and natural habitat protection.

In 2019, Wynn Resorts launched the highest number of sustainability programs in its history, including the first and only zero carbon, zero waste convention offering in Las Vegas; the introduction of artificial intelligence to combat food waste in Macau; and the entirety of Encore Boston Harbor, which is certified LEED Platinum and runs on 100% renewable energy managed by an on-site microgrid – a first-in-industry innovation.

To promote the adoption of sustainability measures by like-minded organizations, we actively disseminate our environmental solutions through transparent reporting and information sharing activities across a number of sectors.

In the years to come, we will continue to think critically about how we can protect our planet to deliver a sustainable luxury experience without sacrificing the Five-Star service that only Wynn Resorts can provide.