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Marriott Touts ‘Made-in-USA’ Towels

Marriott has long been known as a corporation with a conscience.

Sure, most large U.S. companies engage in activities designed to enhance their good-citizenship bona fides. It’s good P.R. But Marriott walks the talk, and has the trophies to prove it (Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Lodging Company;” designated a “World’s Most Ethical Company” by the Ethisphere Institute; awarded “Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles” by the National Business Group on Health; etc.).

For all that, Marriott still doesn’t always get it right. The company’s effort to encourage hotel guests to leave tips for housekeepers was badly conceived and an unmitigated image disaster. Shaming customers into paying more because Marriott undercompensates its own employees was an embarrassment for all concerned, even if the underlying impulse was good-hearted.

But such missteps are the exception.

Marriott’s latest initiative, announced yesterday, was hashtagged on the company’s Twitter feed as #MadeInUSA: “Bill Marriott: Simple things like towels in our hotels represent progress for the U.S. economy.”

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Translation: Around 3,000 U.S. Marriotts will soon feature bathroom towels and bath mats made in the U.S. by Standard Textile, from U.S.-grown cotton. Marriott claims the arrangement will create 150 new jobs at Cincinnati-based Standard Textile, which will be producing 2.6 million bath towels and 4.9 million hand towels to meet Marriott’s annual demand.

“We believe our guests will appreciate knowing that even simple items they use every day in our hotels represent progress for the U.S. economy,” according to Bill Marriott, the company’s founder and now Executive Chairman. “We also hope this sends a message to other businesses that buying locally can make business sense.”

In the larger scheme of things, it’s a small gesture, to be sure. But at a time when so many companies routinely nickel-and-dime their suppliers and their customers, it’s heartening to see Marriott injecting a modicum of good citizenship into its procurement practices.

Now, with its eye on do-gooding on the home front, perhaps Marriott will revisit the pay scales of its housekeeping staff. Charity begins at home, right?

Reader Reality Check

Does a company’s morals factor into your choice of hotel or airline?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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