Overwater villa at Soneva Secret Resort, opening in 2024.
Source: Soneva, Bruce Avellan
Many hotels claim to be environmentally friendly.
But are they?
A quick and easy test is to look for two ingredients, said Sonu Shivdasani, founder of hotel brands Soneva and Six Senses.
First, sustainable hotels should not contain branded water of any kind, he told CNBC Travel.
“When you have incredibly filtered water, and tap water is fairly pure in most countries of the world… there’s no need to get any kind of branded water,” he said.
Not only does this reduce single-use bottles, but it’s also healthier, he said.
“There are a lot of water brands that can be very toxic, because they are in areas where there is some type of chemical contamination,” he said. Additionally, “Plastic bottles are carcinogenic. You can imagine… that plastic bottle… sitting in a store for two or three months, heating up and roasting.”
He said the best and cheapest option for hotels is to purify tap water and add electrolyte minerals such as sodium, potassium and chloride.
Next, he checked for toiletries in plastic bottles, which Shivdasani called “ridiculous.”
“One should buy in bulk containers and then refill them in ceramic bottles,” he said.
But that’s really the bare minimum, said Shivdasani, who sold Six Senses in 2012.
He is now focusing on the three Soneva hotels: two in the Maldives and one in Thailand, as well as another – Soneva Secret – scheduled to open on a remote atoll in the northern Maldives in 2024.
The resorts serve guests produce grown on-site, rely partly on solar energy and recycle 93% of the waste generated, said Shivdasani, who received the Top 50 Hotels award.Icon Award“For Responsible Luxury Tourism in September.
Shivdasani rejects the idea that operating sustainably is more expensive.
“The environment is the economy,” he told CNBC Travel.
He added that by relying more on solar energy than diesel fuel, Soneva Resorts will save money in the long run.
“Our bankers are very supportive of us doing this,” he said. “The return on that investment is about four and a half years.”
By making charcoal using fallen branches, Shivdasani estimates his company saves $20,000 to $30,000 annually. In addition, the on-site gardens provide about $10,000 a month in vegetables – at market prices – to each resort, he added.
But Shivdasani doesn’t argue that sustainability – at this level – is harder.
“It’s definitely not easier. But it’s more interesting,” he said. “It’s more difficult, but it’s definitely a lot more satisfying.”
As the tourism industry adopts more sustainable practices, one question remains: who pays for it?
“Governments can create the context, but companies need to make the change,” Shivdasani told CNBC Travel. “We can do this by making small changes to the way we do business that don’t impact our profitability, but can have a big impact on people beyond our borders.”
Nearly 80% of travelers would pay at least 10% more for green travel, despite the cost of living crisis, according to a new report. A Euromonitor International report was published in August.
Soneva Fushi, a resort in the Maldives, where Shivdasani said he and his wife Eva live about half the year.
Shivdasani said he decided to impose a green tax after the company measured its “Scope 3” emissions.
“I didn’t know what the third range of CO2 emissions was,” he said. “Scopes 1 and 2 are like light bulbs and air conditioning…Scope 3 is the external factors outside the property [like] “Guests travel and supplies come in.”
Companies often fail to report Scope 3 emissions, said Kelvin Low, an associate professor of accounting at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who researches corporate sustainability and financial fraud.
“Missing one out of three reporting ranges may not seem like a big deal – but it is.” He wrote for CNABecause it represents the lion’s share of most companies’ emissions. “Leaving Scope III emissions reporting is like solving a jigsaw puzzle without the bigger piece – the picture is never complete.”
After Soneva determined that 85% of its carbon emissions were “Scope 3” emissions, the company imposed a 2% carbon tax, Shivdasani said. That was in 2008.
“That’s why we said we have to do something about it,” he said.
The tax generated about $12 million for the Soneva Foundation, a British charity founded in 2010.
Proceeds have been used to restore forests in Thailand, fund a 1.5 megawatt windmill in India (“giving local community subsidized energy”) and purchase stoves in Myanmar and Darfur, Sudan.
“Cookstoves have been a great investment,” he said, adding that they not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions but also reduce firewood expenses and the risk of lung disease. the last It causes an estimated 3.2 million deaths annuallyAmong them are about 230,000 children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization.
Moreover, stoves created a carbon surplus, he added.
“We now have two million excess carbon credits, which is equivalent to about $20 million,” he said.
The credits — which currently sell for $10 to $15 each on the open market — are certified and then purchased by companies, such as Marks & Spencer, which use the credit to meet their own carbon reduction targets, he said.
He added that the Soneva Foundation reinvests that money and uses it to plant one million trees in Nepal and Mozambique, among other projects.
“It’s a small change, but it has had an amazingly increased impact,” he said.
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