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The environment and beyond

How sustainability refers to more than just protecting the environment…

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” and intended to be achieved by 2030. Most, if not all, businesses and individuals should at least be partially aware of the SDGs and how they relate to their personal and professional interactions, and, for those who aren’t, the exhaustive list is provided at the end of this article.

I’ve spoken to a number of individuals within our industry and listened to many more speak on stage about SDGs and how they relate to superyachts. On the one hand, this is brilliant; influential people are engaging with the issue and, at best, acting to improve their businesses or, at the very least, are theorising about how they might engage in the future. On the other hand, if one is being cynical (which I am about to be), these discussions also acutely highlight how individuals and businesses are able to pick and choose how they intend to be sustainable.

Where the environment is concerned, everyone is more than willing to jump on the bandwagon and exclaim as loudly as they can about how they have managed to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics, switched to hybrid propulsion or engaged in a beach clean-up. Indeed, I’ve heard a number of people talk confidently and proudly about how ‘three or four of the SDGs directly relate to the superyacht market’ and exactly how they are engaging with them.

This, I must stress, is no bad thing; engaging with any of the goals is a positive. However, if I was a gambling man, I would hazard a guess that these people were referring to numbers 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action) and 14 (Life Below Water). Allowing myself room for error, you could further include 15 (Life On Land) on that list. Yes, the climate emergency is the pervading issue of our time and everyone must engage in contributing to its solution as far as they are able.

Yet to claim that only three to five SDGs relate directly to the superyacht industry is to completely fail to engage with the overall message of the SDGs. Sustainability does not mean just caring for the planet; it means caring for those creatures that inhabit it – and I’m not just talking about wildlife, I am talking about people.

If the superyacht industry really wants to change how it is perceived by the wider world it needs to consider engaging with a number of other SDGs. How can we help fight poverty and reduce hunger? Perhaps we could use more local produce, markets and suppliers. How can we strive for gender equality? Perhaps we could reconsider stereotyping roles on board yachts. How can we reduce inequality? Perhaps we should stop trying to keep superyachts in Europe by finding creative tax solutions. If owners don’t want to pay, let them take the business elsewhere to help develop new economies.

There are many ways to promote sustainability beyond the obvious. Engaging with the environment is not the only issue of our time.

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal

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The environment and beyond

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