Environment Award Finalist
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How can an industry that uses vast amounts of water, consumes a lot of electricity and creates mountains of waste, be sustainable? And what if its hotel is sited on a remote coral atoll, where there is nowhere to grow food, all the water is salty and there is no one to deal with the waste? If you want the answers to the many sustainability challenges facing tourism, you might look to Soneva.
Soneva simply banned imported bottled water in 2008. Instead it produces and sells high quality filtered mineral water on site. It then donated a portion of profits to water projects that benefit over 600,000 people in developing countries, while saving 800,000 plastic bottles from going to landfill.
79% of Soneva’s waste is recycled through its state-of-the-art Waste-to-Wealth programme. All food waste is composted, thus creating soil that is reused in the hotel's 4,500 m2 vegetable gardens. On these they grow organic food to serve to their guests - 15,000kg of produce per year, worth US$48,000.
Its most significant actions, however, have come in its approach to energy and climate change. Since 2009 the company’s atoll has been home to the Maldives' largest solar installation, providing 50% of the hotel's electricity needs. But rather than stop there Soneva introduced a climate levy of 2% on room revenue back in 2008, which has so far raised over US$5.5m which is then spent on carbon mitigation projects that over the next 7 years will save over 1m tonnes of CO2, far more than Soneva’s total carbon footprint.
Where many hotels would see this as offering remarkable competitive advantage, Soneva's mission is far wider. It's core purpose is ‘To create innovative and enlightening SLOW LIFE’ – standing for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences. Each year it hosts the SLOW LIFE Symposium, where hospitality executives and environmental thought leaders gather in the Maldives to brainstorm solutions to the environmental challenges facing the industry and society at large. Judging by what Soneva is doing in its own properties, they have come to the right place.