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Based in the Maldives and Thailand, Soneva began life in 1995 when Eva and Sonu Shivdasani built Soneva Fushi - as well as their home - on the deserted island of Kunfunadhoo, later to be followed by Soneva Kiri on the unspoilt Thai island of Koh Kood in 2009.
Whilst the beautiful and carefully planned resorts are the epitome of exotic luxury, Sonu and Eva are passionate about their environmental commitments and subscribe to what they call their SLOW LIFE philosophy.
SLOW LIFE stands for Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences. Eva and Sonu say, “We take our environmental and social responsibilities very seriously. Whether it's developing resorts using sustainable materials, recycling waste materials, conserving water or preserving ecosystems, we are always prepared to take the initiative.”
Welcoming them to the ITP membership, ITP’s Director Stephen Farrant said, “It is great to have The Soneva Group’s passion and commitment (as encapsulated in the SLOW LIFE philosophy) and their unique perspectives as a relatively small company around the ITP membership table, and we look forward to working with them.”
The Soneva Group published their CR report which covers their sustainability initiatives around energy use, water, waste, biodiversity, their staff, their local communities and their carbon footprint.
For example they use a 70kW solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant on Soneva Fushi which was the largest renewable energy plant in the Maldives when installed in November 2009. It marked an important step in their company-wide goal of a net zero carbon footprint. Sonu says the solar PV system offers great ROI and currently plans for its extension are underway.
Alongside these and several other initiatives, Sonu and Eva founded the SLOW LIFE Foundation; a not-for-profit organisation that aims to deliver meaningful projects that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact.
Whilst it focuses on several different programmes in particular it includes:
SLOW LIFE in Myanmar
The Myanmar Stoves Campaign, which aims to mobilise USD 10 million of investment on commercial terms to distribute efficient cook stoves to over 1 million households in rural areas of Myanmar.
Benefits of the project to the local community are extensive including monetary savings for households, protection of biodiversity, training and employment opportunities and health benefits from significantly reduced indoor air pollution. All of this can be achieved while offering supporters an attractive return on investment.
The project is being developed as a Micro Programme with the Gold Standard Foundation to reflect the premium quality of the project.
Soneva Forest Restoration
The SLOW LIFE Foundation partnered with PATT Foundation and planted 452,000 trees covering 300 acres in the Chiang Mai region of northern Thailand in 2011 and 2012. In 2013 they planted a further 59,920 trees to address some losses in the initial planting.
A Framework Species Methodology, with guidance from Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University, was used and 90 species of trees were planted. Over a period of seven to eight years, seed-disbursing birds will increase the number of species further creating a rich biodiverse forest rather than a plantation. The project will mitigate an estimated 255,000 tons of CO2.
Three main sites were restored at Doi Paa Maa in Sri Lanna National Park, Royal Project at Nong Hoi and Pai River Watershed Wildlife Sanctuary.
The project was funded by Soneva Resorts. Co-operation with schools in the UK has been made to secure the crucial first three years of maintenance of the forest after which the forest is expected to be self-managing.
Whole World Water
In just over three years the SLOW LIFE Foundation has been able to help more than 600,000 people get access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation services with funding provided by Soneva Resorts.
To date 488 projects have been implemented in 53 countries. Despite their efforts, some 760 million people globally still lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation services.
In order to make a bigger impact the SLOW LIFE Foundation was instrumental in founding and funding the WHOLE WORLD Water campaign which aims to bring the hospitality industry together to address the global water challenge.
Hotels, resorts and restaurants who join the campaign will produce and bottle their own high quality filtered drinking water instead of using imported bottled water. They will sell their WHOLE WORLD Water and contribute 10% of water revenues to clean water projects. The profit margins of the hotels, resorts and restaurants get enhanced at the same time as millions of households in developing countries benefit from clean and safe drinking water.
You can read more about The Soneva Group, their CR initiatives and achievements and their SLOW LIFE philosophy on their new website www.soneva.com.