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It’s on all of us to strive for a sustainable future

The key steps we can take towards developing a more responsible superyacht industry.…

Thomas Kolster, internationally recognised sustainability expert, sets out the key steps towards developing a better, more responsible superyacht industry – and says we should embrace the difficulties.

Sustainability and superyachting might sound like an oxymoron, but no sector is free from impact. A decade ago, the car industry was slow at adapting to change, but the big players have recently witnessed the rise of Tesla and new entrants from the tech industry. Today, there are few car manufacturers that are not investing heavily in electric engines. The change is driven by societal pressure, increased regulation and scrutiny – especially in a European context. And the clients themselves are changing.

Family offices are moving eagerly into investing within ESG frameworks (Environment, Society and Governance) to guide their future investments. The cars they drive are becoming electric, from Porsche to Lamborghini – and even the clothes they wear. Kering, the parent company behind brands such as Gucci, recently banned fur and rare leathers across all brands and collections.

So why would these clients not be looking for a different superyacht to match their lifestyle? And if not for them, maybe for their children? There’s a new innovation race and it’s not just about bigger, but better for the world. It’s crucial that the industry responds to this increased pressure all the way through innovation governance to its products and services, and also in the way it engages with all stakeholders, from civil society to its clients.

As an industry, the licence to operate can be on the line. It’s not a given that superyachts will always have access to the prominent locations of St Tropez or Cannes. As we’re seeing cities such as Venice banning cruise ships, why wouldn’t we see the same pressure on other city officials for getting superyachts out? There might also be new regulations; a start-up like the Environmental Port Index is aiming to measure the maritime carbon footprint, which might be the first step for city officials to set targets and limit the carbon footprint. It might not be smooth sailing for superyachts unless the industry does what it does best: embrace innovation and strive for more sustainable solutions.

Thomas Kolster, internationally recognised sustainability expert

Where to begin?
Sustainability communication experts and experienced yachting industry professionals recently compiled 10 steps towards a better yachting industry for the Water Revolution Foundation. 

• Set the course
• Always begin internally
• Share the journey
• Choose your media wisely
• Always focus on impact
• Keep it simple, yet honest
• Look for an emotional angle
• Be visual
• Make everyone part of the journey
• Collaborate

Communication is a powerful driver of change, both internally and externally. Right now, we’re witnessing a communication void. Customers, industry stakeholders and civil society want answers, want direction. Just as ships need a clear course and arrival time, your journey to sustainability requires a clear plan with an agreed ETA. This will serve as your compass for engaging stakeholders internally and externally.

Some examples in this guideline detail being honest about sustainability efforts without either overcomplication or coming across as condescending. Industry actors want to avoid over-promising and underdelivering, while sticking to their strengths instead of reaching for unachievable goals with impossible deadlines.

What you cannot measure, you cannot change. Always make sure that the impact of an initiative is quantifiable such as litres of water saved, number of work-related accidents lowered by X per cent or XX euros donated. However, before communicating this, make sure you compare the results to your overall impact and to others in the industry.

If you install water-saving toilets but your overall water footprint is still millions of litres, this may not be a smart story to go big on. Collaboration is a powerful driver in sustainable solutions. For example, making use of the Yacht Assessment Tool allows the industry to measure and compare to further their sustainability journey and ultimately learn from each other.

Do’s
Think long-term, respect each other, look for shared values. Be open to help and new expertise. Use workshops or co-creation formats. Embrace the difficulties.

The superyacht industry relies on the health of our oceans. It’s our shared responsibility to work together to act sustainably, neutralise our footprint, preserve the world’s precious seas and ensure we have a sustainable business for the future.

The car industry was slow at adapting to the change, but other industries have already begun sailing in the right direction. A rising tide will lift every boat; it’s time for the industry to stand together and answer the call for change.

This article first appeared in The Americas Superyacht Report. To gain access to The Superyacht Group’s full suite of content, publications, events and services, click here to join The Superyacht Group Community and become one of our members.

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