By Sonu Shivdasani, Guardian of the Culture, CEO and Joint Creative Director, Soneva
From the very beginning, sustainability has been at the heart of Soneva’s ethos, from sourcing sustainable construction materials and maintaining the natural beauty of each of our resorts’ locations, to working in partnership with our local communities.
Soneva Villa Ownership represents the ultimate expression of the signature experiences and style for which Soneva has become world renowned; understated design and luxuriously spacious accommodation, uncompromising quality and service and environmental sensitivity.
These extraordinary Private Residences are located in some of the most breath-taking locations in the world. Built with materials from sustainable sources, they tread lightly on the Earth by applying construction techniques that are adapted to preserve the integrity of the environment and local communities that surround them.
Sonu Shivdasani, Guardian of the Culture, CEO and Joint Creative Director, Soneva Villa Ownership comments:
We believe that luxury and sustainability are interconnected concepts; in today’s world, sustainability and luxury do not compete, in fact, they complement each other. Today Soneva is 100% carbon neutral and we continue to make a difference wherever we can.
We believe that a company’s performance should be assessed as its total contribution to society. That includes the total impact our operations have on the natural world and on the communities in which we operate. Our rigorous monitoring and measuring of our performance informs our decision-making and enables us to be pioneers and advocates of environmentally and socially responsible tourism.
Our Soneva Total Impact Assessment (TIA) is a reporting tool developed in-house that allows us to take a planetary boundaries view of all our social and environmental impacts. This includes direct impacts at our resorts and indirect impacts via our supply chain and guest air travel. Measuring our impacts allows us to drive better decision-making, more effective resource allocation and to influence the business decisions of our suppliers. Here are a few examples of how we are working to improve and champion sustainability for our villa owners here on the island.
We are committed to reducing our environmental footprint by embracing responsible business practices and accounting for and managing our environmental liabilities through our Total Impact Assessment. While we go to great lengths to improve our own performance, we recognise that the environmental impacts of our resorts also include indirect emissions such as guest air travel.
Soneva has been carbon neutral for both direct and indirect emissions including guests’ air travel since 2012. An environmental levy of 2% is added to each guest’s stay. The Soneva Foundation invests this in projects that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact and importantly, offset carbon emissions from resort activities and guest flights. Our total carbon footprint for 2019 was 66,938 tonnes CO2 of which 81% was from indirect emissions. All emissions have been offset.
Flagship projects of the Soneva Foundation include clean cookstoves in rural Myanmar and forest restoration in Northern Thailand. Indoor cooking on open fires is devastating for human health and a huge contributor to deforestation worldwide. Targeted interventions can make a big difference to individual lives and to the environmental impact on a local and global scale.
Eco Centro is the heart of our waste-to-wealth programme – What we are doing is greater than simply recycling. We are changing the perception of waste by showing that it is a resource that can be used to create useful items for our operations as well as objects of beauty.
From the day Soneva was created 25 years ago this year, we have been looking at how to use interesting and unusual objects in new and creative ways. We have lampshades made from old tin cans. We have taken old dead branches from the jungle and turned them into the sculptures found in our villas. We have mixed waste glass with concrete to create beautiful tables. When it is polished all the different colours come to the surface.
Soneva Maker Programme – We are all too familiar with the problem of plastic. Our oceans are choked with plastic waste that gathers in huge quantities in the Pacific Ocean. Plastic waste makes beaches dirty and unattractive and kills whales and turtles that mistake it for food. It is broken down into micro-plastic, which is consumed by fish, and that contamination is passed on to humans on our dinner plates when we consume fish. We are only just beginning to understand what the consequences may be for human health.
For an island nation like the Maldives that relies on white beaches and crystal clear water for tourism as well as fish as a main staple, waste is a huge problem. Unfortunately, most waste in the Maldives is either burned in open fires or ends up in the ocean. We are proud to recycle 90% of our solid waste but we want to go further. The trickiest bit is difficult to recycle items like toothpaste tubes and squeezable sun cream tubes. To deal with these items we have established the Soneva Maker Programme at Soneva Fushi. This programme sees Soneva join the grass-roots Precious Plastic global initiative to become the first company in the Maldives to recycle plastic into new products, using open source machines made from locally available, low-cost materials.
The Soneva Maker Programme is part of Soneva’s plan to encourage guests and hosts to participate in recycling initiatives, to educate younger guests about how things are made and to emphasise the ‘Waste-to-Wealth’ concept. In due course, the programme will be extended so that Soneva resorts recycle plastic collected from neighbouring islands as well.
Namoona Baa initiative – This year also saw the official launch of our pioneering Namoona Baa initiative. We unveiled a new ‘eco-centro’ complex on the island of Maalhos, Maldives and as part of the initiative, the islands of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo in the Baa Atoll pledged to end the open burning of island waste, in a radical shift towards eco-friendly waste management.
The pledge was made by the Presidents of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo island councils during a workshop on waste held at Soneva Fushi in January 2019. As part of this initiative, all food and organic waste, metals and bottles are chipped, ground down or composted, and turned into things of economic value, such as concrete building blocks and fertiliser. Plastic waste is either recycled or used to create useful new objects.