When Eva and Sonu Shivdasani built Soneva Fushi in 1995, the original Soneva castaway resort on the deserted island of Kunfunadhoo, they could not foresee that their vision of a locally crafted villa and environmentally responsible lifestyle would not only provide them with a home but would grow into a successful collection of world-class hotels, resorts and spas. But that is exactly what happened.
At Soneva, Sonu and Eva take environmental and social responsibilities very seriously; taking the initiative when it comes to developing resorts using sustainable materials and putting the environment first. Creating the template for sustainable tourism, they have recognised the ability to make luxury holidays co-exist with caring for the environment.
Coining the concept of ‘Slow Life’ (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences), Soneva aims to ‘illuminate lives whilst treading lightly on the earth’.
Sonu and Eva set up the Slow Life Foundation, a non-profit charity with a dual purpose, to balance unavoidable carbon emissions and to find the best projects and partners to do this. There is a focus on clean energy, biodiversity and social impact. By supporting the Slow Life Foundation Soneva aids development of innovative projects while addressing social and environmental challenges around the world.
Every year the Foundation holds The Slow Life Symposium, a three day event bringing together business leaders, scientists, NGOs, renowned thinkers and policy makers to discuss and accelerate progress towards environmental sustainability. The Focus of the Symposium is to create new networks and partnerships between people and organisations committed to making a positive change on the environment within successful business models.
Initiatives set at previous symposiums already have a positive impact on our world. Food sourcing is one example. Strict policies tracing the journey of food from farm or sea to plate aim to minimise environmental impact. Sustainability of fish stocks and threats to local biodiversity are already contemplated by Soneva’s Fushi and Kiri resorts but more can be done.
Whole World Water, another Slow Life initiative, was established following the 2011 symposium. Since then, over 600,000 people can now access safe drinking water or basic sanitation services with support from Soneva resorts. However, billions of people worldwide still lack one or other of these services.
This caring initiative aims to encourage the hospitality industry to bottle its own filtered drinking water for resale. 10% of revenue from this will be contributed to clean water projects around the world. By doing this, it is estimated that one billion could be raised every single year to reduce the numbers of people suffering the consequences of poor water services.
By following Soneva’s example, luxury does not need to leave a mark on the environment. It can work together to enhance what is already beautiful and help mend mistakes that have already been made making sustainability a part of everyday life to a point where no thought is needed, it just happens.