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Trending: Cruise Lines Teaming Up with NGOs to Help Improve Ocean Health and Wealth

Image credit: Royal Caribbean

In recent years, the travel and hospitality industry has smartly identified the business case for investing in the preservation of popular destinations around the world, and the environmental and social ecosystems that comprise them. Since 2014, we’ve seen the establishment of the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas; the publication of a joint report from JetBlue and The Ocean Foundation, which found a direct correlation between the health of ecosystems in the Caribbean (one of JetBlue’s top destinations) and the airline’s revenue; and industry-wide efforts such as the “10 Million Better” campaign.

Now the momentum continues — this time in the notoriously polluting cruise industry, when on Monday the world’s two largest cruise lines, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), announced they were each teaming up with environmental NGOs in the name of ocean conservation. 

First, Carnival, the world's largest travel and leisure company, announced it will host representatives from leading conservation, science and sustainability organizations for The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) annual Mapping Ocean Wealth forum, at its Miami headquarters Jan. 26-27.

The Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative is designed to create a new kind of knowledge about how and where ocean benefits are produced – and mapping those areas. Coral reefs and mangroves, for example, provide numerous benefits, including fish production, flood mitigation, erosion control and recreation. The project will be transformational to ocean management and will improve investments in conservation, restoration and economic development by identifying and mapping the areas where these benefits are produced.

The meeting will also highlight updated research in the areas supporting tourism, the coastal ocean’s CO2 sequestration capacity and coastal protection specific to coral reefs and mangroves, which are present in ports around the world and whose health Carnival is recognizing as an important environmental priority for the health of its 10 cruise line brands operating in more than 700 global ports.

Along with Carnival Corporation, representatives from The World Bank, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), World Resources Institute (WRI), University of British Columbia, Duke University, GRID-Arendal and others are joining the meeting.

“The Nature Conservancy’s Mapping Ocean Wealth project will identify the most critical areas for public and private action in support of our oceans, as well as help showcase the latest research on issues such as tourism, coastal protection and fish production,” said Elaine Heldewier, sustainability director for Carnival Corporation.  “As the world’s largest cruise company, we have 11 million guests a year sailing with our 10 global brands, and many of our 120,000 employees work and live for extended periods of time on our oceans and seas. So it is a top priority for us to protect and sustain the environment, and supporting leading conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy and many others underscores our commitment to sustainability. We look forward to two days of learning how new research and specific initiatives can further our joint goals.”

“Our annual meeting will advance the discussion of how ocean habitats benefit us all, and how well-informed conservation initiatives can yield lasting, measurable outcomes,” added Rob Brumbaugh, director of ocean mapping and planning for The Nature Conservancy. “Mapping Ocean Wealth demonstrates what the ocean does for us today so that we can maximize what the ocean does for us tomorrow.”

Supporting the 2016 Mapping Ocean Wealth meeting is the latest example of Carnival Corporation’s ongoing support of The Nature Conservancy: In partnership with the Carnival Foundation, Carnival awarded a $2.5 million gift over five years in 2014 to support TNC’s work on Mapping Ocean Wealth and global marine protection priorities; in June 2015, the company announced that its first year of supporting TNC helped the conservation organization further some of its critical preservation activities, including:

  • building new coral nurseries in the Caribbean
  • transplanting 20,000 corals in the Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands
  • installing new pilot reef enhancement structures to provide greater habitat for fish and a potential area for future coral growth in Grenada’s Grenville Bay

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean announced a five-year global partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to help ensure the long-term health of the oceans. The partners will set measurable and achievable sustainability targets that will reduce Royal Caribbean's environmental footprint, raise awareness about ocean conservation among the company's more than five million guests, and support WWF's global oceans conservation work. 

The targets focus on supply chain sustainability and emissions reductions through 2020. Royal Caribbean and WWF also are working together to develop targets aimed at strengthening the company's sustainable sourcing strategy and its destination stewardship and sustainable tour operations platforms.

"Our mantra at Royal Caribbean is 'Continuous Improvement,' and this partnership with WWF represents a great opportunity to make a big step forward in meeting our special responsibility to protect the oceans," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean. "It is also gratifying to see that our determination to make a meaningful difference is shared by our employees and our guests. This new partnership aligns all of us at RCL with WWF's mission to conserve the world's oceans. Together we are setting aggressive goals and together we will start implementing them right away."

"The threats facing the ocean are greater than ever – in the last 30 years, some ocean wildlife populations have declined by nearly 50 percent. If we are going to reverse the downward trends, we must take serious steps to repair, restore and protect the oceans," said WWF-US president and CEO Carter Roberts. "This initiative centers on two core concepts: First, committing to specific and measurable targets to reduce carbon emissions, increase sustainable sourcing and build destination stewardship; and second, comprehensively engaging their millions of travelers to learn about the ocean and then act to help save it."

Royal Caribbean Cruises and WWF jointly developed new 2020 environmental sustainability targets for the company that includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2020, along with several goals around sustainable seafood:

  • To responsibly source 90 percent of its wild-caught seafood by volume from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified sustainable fisheries, fisheries in full assessment for MSC certification, comprehensive Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), and/or sourced from International Seafood Sustainability Association (ISSA) member companies.
  • In North America and Europe operations, responsibly source 75 percent of its farmed seafood by volume from Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)-certified responsible farms, farms in full assessment for ASC certification, and/or comprehensive aquaculture improvement projects.
  • In addition, by June 30, 2016, RCL will set specific traceability goals with targets for obtaining MSC and ASC chain of custody.

In addition, Royal Caribbean and WWF have agreed to develop and announce new targets by June 30 that will address destination stewardship. As part of this, WWF and RCL will collaborate to strengthen RCL's destination sustainability assessment and selection process.

Royal Caribbean also will financially support WWF's global ocean conservation work through a $5 million philanthropic contribution during the partnership, and will collaborate with WWF to build global awareness about ocean conservation issues among its millions of passengers.

The organizations made their announcement at an event in Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines — home to a model community-based ecotourism program. At the event, RCL also made a separate, $200,000 donation to WWF Philippines in support of conservation programs in the Donsol area.


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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