Soneva celebrates sustainability journey

4 mins read

Luxury resort operator Soneva continued to set the benchmark for responsible tourism in 2021 with sustainability initiatives across the brand’s carbon-neutral properties in the Maldives and Thailand.

The development of one of the biggest coral nurseries in the world, an island studio that recycles plastic waste and aluminium into works of art, and a 98% reduction in mosquito populations without pesticide fogging were among the successes highlighted in the 2021 Soneva Sustainability Report.

The coral nursery at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives uses Mineral Accretion Technology with the goal of propagating 50,000 coral fragments every year. The technology accelerates coral growth by 300%.

Soneva has been carbon neutral for both direct and indirect emissions since 2012. An environmental levy of 2% is added to each guest’s stay, the proceeds of which are invested by the Soneva Foundation in projects that offset carbon emission from resort activities and guest flights. The company’s carbon footprint for 2021 was 64,460 tonnes CO2 of which 77% was from indirect emissions.

“2021 marks milestone for the Soneva Foundation, in that it was able to sell a good number of carbon credits. These were excess of what Soneva needs to stay carbon neutral,” according to Arnfinn Oines, head of Social & Environmental Conscience, and Secretary of the Soneva Foundation.

Since Soneva Fushi opened in 1995 with its pioneering barefoot luxury concept, Soneva has also generated US$2.6 million from a ‘Waste-to-Wealth’ initiative, taught over 1,160 local children to swim, and avoided the manufacture of 2.2 million single-use plastic bottles by filtering, mineralising and bottling its own water in reusable glass bottles.

The onsite regenerative waste facility Eco Centro at Soneva Fushi recycled 82% of the resort’s solid waste in 2021. The ‘Soneva Namoona’ project – which began as a partnership with three neighbouring island communities (Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo) to introduce recycling and phase out single-use plastic – expanded in 2021 to include eleven islands across Baa Atoll and Noonu Atoll, with additional funding from USAID.

During the year, 101,680 plastic bottles were avoided and 140 tonnes of waste were sent for recycling across the 11 Namoona islands. In December, the seven Namoona islands in Baa Atoll commissioned a recyclable waste collection boat to collect 50 tonnes of segregated, compacted, and baled recyclable waste and transport it overseas for recycling.

In the absence of an industry standard, Soneva developed an internal methodology to calculate the social and environmental impacts of its resorts, including indirect impacts via supply chain and guest air travel.

“Our Total Impact Assessment (TIA), allows us to get to the root of each area of our operations and to understand and cost our sustainability impacts. Building and maintaining world-class resorts is a resource-intensive endeavour,” explained Bruce Bromley, Chief Financial Officer and Deputy CEO. “While every area of our resort design and build process is guided by the highest sustainability standards, inevitably the build process draws on natural capital. The TIA allows us to make informed decisions of how and where to minimize and offset the impact of our developments and ongoing operational activities.”