As the custodians of pristine locations, Soneva is built on the foundation that a business must exist for a greater purpose than shareholder returns. We believe in a natural excellence in everything we do, whether it is delivering the ultimate guest experiences or providing energy to the rural poor in Myanmar through the Soneva Foundation.
We work at a community level to bring tangible change to people’s lives while simultaneously working with global leaders to shape policy and encourage public discourse. We teach Maldivian children to swim safely in the ocean while simultaneously providing an environmental education.
We create our own cooking charcoal using the resources available to us on the island while providing 230,000 people in Darfur and Myanmar with fuel-efficient stoves that reduce deforestation and deathly indoor air pollution.
We filter, mineralise and bottle our own drinking water while using the proceeds to provide 750,000 people around the world with clean and safe water. We do not import any single-use plastics to our resorts while upcycling any discarded plastic into colourful and useful objects using our Maker Space facility.
We run the SLOW LIFE Symposia to encourage environmental and social collaboration within our local communities while hosting an annual SLOW LIFE Symposium to bring together the greatest academic, political and business minds to partner on the world’s most pressing problems.
Of all the lessons we have learnt since founding Soneva, perhaps the most significant is the power of positive experiences to inspire the best in people. Experiences create lightbulb moments. Experiences change lives.
Total Impact Assessment
Measuring our performance is fundamental. A company’s performance should be assessed as its total contribution to society. What is missing from traditional company accounts is any gauge of the total impact that operations have on the natural world and on the communities in which they operate. Our rigorous monitoring and measuring of our performance informs our decision-making and enables us to be pioneers and advocates of environmentally and socially responsible tourism.
The Soneva Total Impact Assessment (TIA) is a reporting tool developed in-house that allows us to take a ‘planetary boundaries’ view of all our social and environmental impacts. This includes direct impacts at our resorts and indirect impacts via our supply chain and guest air travel. Measuring our impacts allows us to drive better decision-making, more effective resource allocation and to influence the business decisions of our suppliers.
- Carbon neutral including indirect emissions such as guest air travel
- 230,000 people benefitted from fuel-efficient stoves
- 488,587 tonnes of CO2 mitigated
- 511,920 trees planted in Thailand
- $14 million in social value
- $7 million raised for the Soneva Foundation
When does something become waste? Only when you throw it away.
The Maldives is a nation with very few municipal waste facilities so creating a new approach to waste is a necessity. This suits our philosophy perfectly and Soneva Fushi recycles 90% of waste on-site through a robust waste management strategy combined with a focus on innovation. We consider waste an asset. The food that is left over from our restaurants? This is composted to create valuable and nutritious soil for our vegetable gardens. The Styrofoam packaging that is used to keep food deliveries to the island fresh? This is transformed into lightweight blocks that we use in construction. Those last pieces of plastic that cannot be recycled? The Soneva Maker Programme transforms these into colourful Easter eggs and other durable items. The wine bottles not just from our own restaurants but also those of our neighbouring resorts? The Soneva Glass Studio turns glass into stunning works of art.
If more proof of concept were needed, in 2017, our Waste-to-Wealth concept generated $340,000 in value.
Each Soneva resort has extensive fruit and vegetable gardens that supply the resort with fresh produce. The gardens are nurtured with compost created from food waste and nutrient-rich irrigation from the water treatment ponds. Growing food on-site provides guests with the freshest possible ingredients and reduces food transportation miles and corresponding emissions dramatically.
Biodiversity at Soneva
The preservation of our environment is essential to a biodiverse future. Responsible tourism has a key role to play in the protection of some of our most beautiful ecosystems and endangered species. Soneva takes great pride in supporting conservation and restoration efforts. You can read the Soneva Fushi Biodiversity Survey and the Soneva Kiri Botanical Report, prepared by our resident biologists.
Ali Adil - Island Ecology
Adil is the resident astronomer and environmentalist at Soneva Jani. He knows the island better than most as he spent much of his childhood here, helping his uncle run the farm that the island previously hosted. You can watch his video below.
Children's Cooking Competition
Soneva Fushi’s Chef Sobah is officially the top Maldivian chef in the country – just a brief look at his medal tally confirms this. As a national TV celebrity, he has the potential to inspire a new generation of Maldivian chefs.
Each year, Chef Sobah organises a cooking competition for 100 children from local islands, aged 11-12, in partnership with the Baa Atoll Education Centre on Eydhafushi.
Chef Sobah is passionate about encouraging children to aim high and to believe that they too can reach the top of this profession.
Each year, he trains the children for three months prior to the actual competition and during that time they learn everything about working in a professional kitchen and how a restaurant works. When the training begins, many children don't know how to use a knife. By the end, they are able to cook a four course meals within two hours, all to an exceptionally high standard.
The winning group is invited to Soneva Fushi where they get to see the chefs in action and experience a professional kitchen. Winners receive bronze, silver and gold medals and a cash prize – as well as the belief that when their turn comes, they too can reach the top of their profession.
Women in Soneva
There are many barriers to Maldivian women working in hospitality, not least the difficulty of balancing what is often a residential career with the needs of a family. We are working proactively to increase the number of Maldivian women working at our resorts by identifying and removing the barriers to successful and fulfilling careers. Nationally, Maldivian women constitute just 4% of the workforce in the hospitality industry and many women find it hard to secure senior roles. Soneva Jani opened its doors in 2016 with Maldivian women representing 25% of the workforce – and we are committed to improving this number year on year.
The Soneva Foundation
We are committed to reducing our environmental footprint by embracing responsible business practices and investing in sustainable resort equipment. While we are doing what we can to improve our own performance, we recognise that the environmental impacts of our resorts also include indirect emissions such as guest air travel.
To address all emissions associated with our resorts, we founded the Soneva Foundation to deliver meaningful projects that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact.
Wherever possible, the Foundation uses impact investing principles, seeking to recover outlays through carbon finance, which in turn will be fed back into projects to help extend the reach and benefits to more families.
The flagship project of the Soneva Foundation supplies clean cook stoves in rural Myanmar. Human development and energy use are intrinsically linked. Indoor cooking on open fires is devastating for human health and a huge contributor to deforestation worldwide. Targeted interventions can make a big difference to individual lives and to environmental pressures on a local and global scale.
Below are some highlights from the Soneva Foundation.
The Soneva Foundation a registered charity in the UK with registration number 1138811.
Myanmar Stove Campaign
The Soneva Foundation is delivering the first Gold Standard Foundation certified carbon project in Myanmar which will see the distribution of fuel efficient cook stoves to 84,000 families. We are working with Mercy Corps Myanmar as our implementation partner.
Myanmar has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world. As the forests disappear, the price of wood gets higher, driving more and more families into energy poverty. Cutting expenditure on wood makes a huge difference to families already living in poverty, and reducing time spent foraging for wood means more time to spend on smallholdings and securing a good harvest.
Over 22,000 stoves have been distributed, reaching over 100,000 people in 500 villages. The fuel-efficient stove supplied by Envirofit reduces wood consumption by 50%, air pollution by 80% and CO2 emissions by 60%.
SLOW LIFE Symposium
We founded the SLOW LIFE symposium to have influence beyond our own networks and beyond our own industry. The Symposium is organised by the Soneva Foundation and hosted by Soneva, providing a perfect opportunity to align the values of the Foundation with the business ethic of Soneva.
Each year we gather the best scientists, philanthropists, business leaders and policy makers for three days of problem solving around the most pressing sustainability challenges and opportunities facing humanity. We use the planetary boundaries framework developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre to benchmark and communicate how we are doing against interrelated environmental and social boundaries.
Participants leave as partners collaborating on solutions-focused initiatives that are offered logistical support from the Soneva Foundation.
The concept of the Soneva Dialogue emerged at the SLOW LIFE Symposium. A project team of Symposium participants collaborated to convene a high-level gathering of the leaders of the world’s largest seafood industries, together with leading ocean, fisheries and sustainability scientists. Soneva partnered with the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Forum for the Future and HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden to deliver the event.
The Soneva Dialogue was the initial ‘keystone dialogue’ that culminated in SeaBOS (Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship), a commitment by ten keystone fishing companies to collaborate on ocean stewardship. SeaBOS is an initiative that, for the first time, connects the global seafood business to science, connects wild capture fisheries to aquaculture, and connects European and North American companies to Asian companies. The ambition is to lead a global transformation towards sustainable seafood production and a healthy ocean. The initiative will actively contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular Goal 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
The Stockholm Dialogue was the second keystone dialogue, hosted by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Crown Princess Victoria at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
A follow-up meeting will take place in 2018. The ambition is that the joint effort and leadership by these keystone actors will influence the whole fishing industry to engage in more sustainable seafood production.
Read the SeaBOS statement for collaboration here: www.keystonedialogues.earth
Darfur Stoves Project
The Soneva Foundation has funded the distribution of 26,000 fuel-efficient cook stoves in war-torn Darfur reaching 130,000 people. Reducing the amount of fuel needed for cooking is vitally important. Women are particularly vulnerable to violent attacks while foraging for wood and cooking with wood places a huge pressure on forests while increasing carbon emissions. This project has created a local industry around the assembly of cook stoves, bringing much needed employment to an area where jobs are scarce.
Soneva Forest Restoration Project
The Soneva Foundation partnered with the PATT Foundation to plant 511,920 trees covering 300 acres in the Chiang Mai region of northern Thailand. We used a Framework Species Methodology, with guidance from the Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University, with 90 species of trees planted. Over a period of 7-8 years, seed-disbursing birds will increase the number of species further, creating a rich biodiverse forest. The project will mitigate an estimated 255,000 tonnes of CO2.
Soneva Wind Turbine
The Soneva Wind Turbine is located in Tamil Nadu, India and will provide 80,000 MWh of clean energy over a 20 year period, mitigating 70,000 tonnes of CO2.
Clean Water Projects
The Soneva Foundation has funded over 500 projects that provide access to clean water or basic sanitation services to over 750,000 people worldwide.
We are currently funding the social enterprise, Soneva Water, in the Maldives.
Drinking water on Maldivian islands can be an unreliable resource. Extended dry seasons can lead to wells drying up and Maalhos residents – a neighbouring island of Soneva Fushi – have required emergency supplies of drinking water to be transported from the capital, Malé, for the past three years.
Two of Soneva Fushi’s Hosts, Federica Siena and Anshul Bakhda, identified a solution based on Soneva’s own pioneering drinking water system. Working closely with the local community, they identified that an unused desalination machine on the island could be the solution to the island’s water scarcity issues. This formed the basis for the creation of a bottling plant that could service the drinking water needs of the whole island.
From the island’s solar-powered desalination water plant, Soneva Water will filter water with carbon resin and reverse osmosis, mineralise, UV sterilise, and bottle water in reusable, eco-friendly bottles. These bottles will then be delivered to households, guest houses, cafes, schools, and businesses in 500ML reusable glass bottles or 5 gallon (19 litre) reusable polycarbonate bottles. Once the water is consumed, the empty bottles will be collected and replaced with a fresh bottle of water. This is the first service of its kind outside of the capital city, Malé.
The innovative model makes water production more environmentally sustainable as it aims to prevent thousands of water bottles from being produced, transported to the island, and then incinerated or thrown into landfills or the sea.
By replacing the thousands of single-use plastic bottles that are consumed on the island every year, Soneva Water will help prevent the plastic bottles from being incinerated, thrown in landfills, or discarded in the jungle or sea. It also presents a huge saving on transportation fuel normally used in distributing bottled water, while also making water production more environmentally sustainable.
Soneva is extremely proud of Soneva Water and of our partnerships with our local communities. Good ideas have a habit of catching on and we hope that this simple, but effective, solution will soon be replicated across all Maldivian islands.
Action Against Hunger UK
Childhood malnutrition is a potentially fatal health condition. Soneva is funding Action Against Hunger UK to deliver Outpatient Therapeutic Programmes to identify and treat severely acute malnourished children in rural Nepal. The programmes are designed to reach families in remote villages whose distance from health clinics mean they are often under-served.
The Soneva foundation funded the programmed with funds raised through Soneva’s participation in the Restaurant Against Hunger programme.
Care For Children
Care for Children was originally established in China to provide foster care for orphaned children, successfully placing over 250,000 children in foster homes. A recent UNICEF report recommends a transition from institutional foster care for Thailand’s orphaned and vulnerable children. At the invitation of the Thai government, Care for Children has now partnered with the government to train all government-run orphanages in local family placement care practice.
The Soneva Foundation funded Care for Children in opening a National Foster Care Training and Resource Centre in Chiang Mai. From this Centre, Care for Children will strategically manage and deliver its national training programme. There are approximately 50,000 orphaned and vulnerable children living in some form of institutional care in Thailand, and the goal is to help the government ensure all children have the opportunity to live with a family they can call their own.
Soneva Ocean Stewards (SOS)
Despite living in an island nation, many Maldivians grow up without learning to swim. While this poses a clear risk to life, it also means that children grow up with little environmental awareness of the ocean and the coral reefs that surround them. We believe that if children learn to swim, they can lose their fear of the ocean and learn to love it. The Soneva Learn To Swim programme takes local children from the very basics through to their first time snorkelling on the reef edge.
During the course of the swimming programme, we take children on a journey of ocean awareness including community beach cleans and school sessions on the vulnerability of the ocean. In fact, the powerful influence of this experience doesn’t just touch the children who are learning to swim. When 20 year old Soneva host Isha Afeef co-ordinated the first programme, she wasn’t able to swim herself. Three years later she is a PADI certified diver and the co-founder of Reef Check Maldives.
Since its launch in 2014, the programme has successfully taught 313 people in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll to swim – including 258 children. The programme is led by local instructors and, in an effort to ensure that the initiative is sustainable in the long term, 38 instructors have now been trained at Soneva Fushi. The programme is supported by Soneva hosts who volunteer their time and expertise to support their communities.
Jon Bowermaster, filmmaker and six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expedition Council, made a documentary film of the first Learn To Swim programme, Sink or Swim.
Managing Trustees Message - Meet Bruce
Bruce Bromley is Chief Financial Officer and Deputy CEO of Soneva. He is also a trustee of the Soneva Foundation.
"The impact of our activities extends far beyond the fringes of our coral reefs, and as a company we take responsibility for our total impact on society. Financial and in-kind support for local community initiatives ensure that we are always a good neighbour, addressing our global impact, most notably in terms of the environmental influence of our supply chain and the carbon emissions from the flights of our guests, which requires a different approach.
The Soneva Foundation, through the funds raised from our environmental levy, develops community projects which have the dual benefit of contributing positively to the lives of impoverished local communities, at the same time as allowing us to address the third party impacts of our operations. Programmes such as the Myanmar Stoves Campaign, the first Gold Standard registered programme in Myanmar, which allow us to offset the emissions from guest flights while improving the health and income of rural households in Myanmar are examples of this."