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The Water Revolution Foundation: YETI and beyond

Day two of The Superyacht Forum Live, in Amsterdam, began with a frank assessment of the industry's green credentials…

It was three years ago today on the very same stage, give or take an auditorium or two, that the Water Revolution Foundation (WRF) was officially incorporated. In that time, the organisation has made great inroads into making believers of our notoriously cynical audience.

As The Superyacht Group’s Chairman, Martin Redmayne, is a founding board member, we have spared a lot of column inches for WRF’s work over the last three years, and our editorial team has had the opportunity to learn, in depth, of the academic rigour the organisation is applying to our industry’s ecological obligation, in contrast to the banality and ambiguity of much of the ‘sustainability’ rhetoric we had to endure from company press conferences at September’s Monaco Yacht Show. Indeed, this particular journalist welcomes the work of WRF as much as an antidote to the vacuous greenwashing the industry has been historically happy to tolerate, as to the irrefutable value of its work.

'Tangible gains' was the name of the game in this opening keynote on day two of The Superyacht Forum Live’s flagship event in Amsterdam, in partnership with METSTRADE.

Redmayne was joined on stage by fellow board members, Feadship CEO, Henk de Vries and Dr Vienna Eleuteri, as well as Feadship’s Head of Knowledge and Innovation, Giedo Loeff and Thomas Kolster of The Goodvertising Agency. The session was an opportunity to chart progress, but morphed into a far more valuable call to arms, based on the most powerful of all arguments – investment in environmentally-friendly technology and services is good business. And, as Redmayne highlighted by paraphrasing recent comments from Bill Gates, in the coming years, it will prove to be very good business.

It is the first opportunity I have had to listen to Dr Eleuteri talk in detail about the foundation’s work, and I must say, I was taken by the prescriptive, binary approach she takes to the ultimate purpose of this organisation. Our editorial team feels it is in a near-constant battle against a tide of industry patter, with businesses from every sector and every territory trying to jump aboard the greenwashing-for-profit train.

Dr Eleuteri however, presents the tantalising opportunity facing us all in this industry, in very clear terms: “What goes on beneath the ocean is about the economy… The real meat coming out of this conversation is that the private sector will make the difference will change the world in a very practical and very efficient way. Much more than any other sector, we need a bottom up. We need to say our politicians and regulators, whoever well is going to be done and what we need to be done, what's possible to be done.”

In simple terms, what Dr Eleuteri is saying is that positive work towards improving the future of our planet will have direct economic benefits to those companies that do so. The health of the planet and the health of company ledgers are now inextricably linked, and the argument for driving the growth of this ‘blue economy’ is now sacrosanct.

Of course, our industry is a creature of habit, and we often respond best to a superstar of De Vries’ profile and influence. He echoed the demands of his fellow board member with an impassioned monologue on where the industry should see itself in 2030.

Talking of the industry driving the point of critical mass, in terms of clean-fuel adoption aboard yachts, de Vries said: “I can tell you, it's certainly not impossible to sell, not to everybody, but that's fine. That's fine because you have to start small, but you can also you can already show it's possible and you need just a few brave people with a lot of money. I think they're the profile we should gather today, and it's not difficult, and it's a lot of business.”

A number of prominent managers in the crowd said that, in current conversations with new-build clients, the appetite for eco-friendly technology adoption is incremental rather than wholesale. But if anything, this only underlines the argument of the panel that it is the industry’s responsibility to ensure that the transition to greener solutions is catalysed quickly, and that the clients of the next build cycle no longer think it socially or economically viable to build with the systems and processes of yesterday.

The first, very attainable step that Redmayne said the industry can take, is to download the foundation's Sustainability Communications Guidelines. These 10 easy steps are an inexpensive route to collective action.

 

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