The small Philippine village of Donsol, a remote fishing community on the southern coast of Luzon island, played host early this year for the launch of a new partnership between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to help conserve the planet’s oceans.
Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean, and Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the WWF in the U.S., were on hand to announce the five-year initiative, a multitarget approach aimed at reducing the cruise line’s carbon emissions as well as boosting its seafood sourcing from certified vendors.
The partnership will also include new destination stewardship targets and sustainability assessment procedures for the many communities around the globe where Royal Caribbean calls, but those specifics aren’t scheduled for release until June 30.
“This is something we are passionate about and something that’s within our will to do,” Fain said. “So for us, this is a no-brainer.”
Explaining that he’s a strong believer in measurable goals, Fain noted that none of the targets will be easy to achieve, but he was confident the initiative would ultimately succeed. And according to Fain, while Royal Caribbean has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on water purifiers and exhaust emission scrubbers, teaming up with the WWF gives the cruise line an opportunity to do something better than it could do on its own.
“When you set the targets yourself, it’s a little bit like a self-imposed deadline,” he said. “If you don’t make it, you change your own deadline. But when you tie in with someone else, and you make a public commitment to those specific measures, it moves the needle.”
Major goals of the partnership include cutting cruise ship greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent over the next five years, responsibly sourcing 90 percent of its wild-caught seafood and responsibly sourcing 75 percent of its farmed seafood for North America and Europe operations from certified fisheries by 2020.
Royal Caribbean will also make $5 million in philanthropic contributions to the WWF’s global ocean conservation efforts over the next five years.
The targets in the new arrangement are clearly important to the WWF, but according to Roberts, an equally vital part of the deal is the chance to communicate with Royal Caribbean’s millions of customers onboard the company’s vessels, “to tell the story of the ocean, the plight of the ocean and to engage people to act and save the ocean.”
Plans to partner with Royal Caribbean on destination stewardship are also crucial for Roberts, who cited the model of his organization’s years of work with the people and government of Donsol — now home to a flourishing whale shark ecotourism economy — as a solid example of what could be achieved elsewhere.
The impoverished village of Donsol had been sitting on a tourism gold mine, thanks to its proximity to a healthy whale shark breeding ground. The WWF has since helped the community build regulation-based visitor products that not only profit from the region’s natural wonders, but also preserve them.
“This was a small village with a mud path running through the center of town,” Roberts said of Donsol 10 years ago. “Now it’s a prosperous community because of the ability to connect people to the ecological riches here and build businesses around them.”