Sustainability plans actions across leisure marine industry

Sustainability plans and actions across the leisure marine spectrum

Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Sustainability; it's a word that has become one of the most frequently used and passionately debated over the last decade, and almost certainly even more so during the last 16 months, for reasons that we are all very aware of.

Across all industries it has become part of the modern business framework, with some large organisations even employing teams of staff dedicated to pursuing their sustainability objectives.

Anyone can Google the word and get a whole list of detailed interpretations that comprehensively define the meaning of it, but for me I like to keep it simple and call it, 'Future Proofing the Planet.'  I should also mention that any Sustainability plan has to be based firmly on three foundation pillars, taking environmental, social and economic considerations fairly and equally into account.

At METSTRADE we have had the subject firmly on the agenda every year since 2014, and quite rightly too, because all of us involved in boating and water sports, are in some way charged with the stewardship of the oceans and waterways that make up 70% of the earth's surface.

So, for this blog, I thought I'd take a look into three of the sustainability plans and actions that I have come across personally, and which are taking place across the leisure marine spectrum right now.  

1. The sustainability journey of World Sailing

Dan Reading is Head of Sustainability for World Sailing and has been a frequent speaker on our METSTRADE panel discussions over the last few years. Recently Dan was invited to present World Sailing's Sustainability objectives and achievements in a webinar hosted by SportsWorker and the Sustainability Report. A few highlights from his presentation:  

As most people probably know, World Sailing is the International Federation for the sport of sailing. Its membership consists of 146 national federations and 117 class associations, hosting events such as the Sailing Olympics and various World Cups. Their mission statement is ‘Sport, Nature and Technology in Powerful Harmony.’ 

More specifically, Dan explained, that this means creating a tangible sustainability program which maximises the positive effect that the sailing community can have on our environment. 

The scope of their planning covers the areas of technical standards, events, venues and facilities, training and participation. Their overall approach to this project very much reflects the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which are endorsed by every UN member state, and is also linked to the sustainability strategy of the International Olympics Committee.   

Target orientated planning to achieve sustainable goals

Climate and environmental related targets that should be achievable under the direct control of World Sailing, include the following:

  • 50% reduction in C02 emissions by 2024 (against 2019 baseline.)
  • Carbon neutrality by 2022
  • Applying Life Cycle Assessment to the construction parameters of competitive boats.
  • 20% of all energy used in the construction of boats from 2024 to be renewable.
  • A Sustainability training program to be rolled out globally in 13 languages.

Grass roots, events and clubhouse considerations

Together with sailing philanthropist 11th Hour Racing, World Sailing Trust, a global charity created in 2018 to support sailing in all its forms, have produced a comprehensive range of sustainability educational materials aimed at the 6 to 12 year old age range, also in 13 languages.

And based on environmental audits of 300 sailing clubs, a self-assessment questionnaire form has been produced. When this is fully completed, it gives an indicative score, and an action plan which enables a sailing club premises to become more sustainable in terms of energy usage and carbon emissions.

Relating to events such as regattas and sailing competitions, the World Sailing sustainability objectives have been embodied in the contract which organisers have to sign up to. The minimum requirements include for instance:

  • A sustainability plan must be submitted 6 months before the event
  • No single use plastics
  • Adequate drinking water stations must be provided.
  • Anti-pollution plans must be in place (no fuel spillage etc.)
  • Sustainability educational activities to be organised for competitors. 

Progress on sustainability approved by sailors

According to Dan the positive feedback World Sailing have had on the progress so far has been unanimous. This viewpoint is based on a survey that asked members two questions:

  1. Does a tangible focus on sustainability enhance an event? 88% answered yes
  2. Should sustainability and ocean conservation measures be adopted at all sailing regattas? 96% answered yes. 

2. EBI and EuCIA partner up to tackle composite waste stream challenge

Another very recent development, is the announcement from Brussels, that European Boating Industry and the European Composites Industry Association have agreed on a strategic partnership. This is aimed at addressing the challenge of how to produce leisure crafts in future, from composites that will fit with the required Circular Economy objectives, and to improve the end-of-life solutions for waste composites coming from the ever-growing number of GRP boats that are no longer in use.

A joint effort between industries

The partnership’s overall objectives will tie in with policy actions at EU level such as the European Green Deal, The Circular Economy Action Plan, and the EU Working Group on End-of-Life Boats. And, bearing in mind that recreational boating represents less than 5% of total global composites usage, there are plans to cooperate with larger volume use industries such as wind energy and transportation.

An intrinsic part of the agreement is to enable the exchange of information on dismantling, recycling, new materials, life cycle analysis, (LCA) and cooperation across various industrial sectors, in addition to joint communications and advocacy of best practises.

METSTRADE Sustainability Panel Discussions

In previous years, Philip Easthill who is Secretary General of EBI, and Jaap van der Wouden who chairs the Sustainability Committee of EuCIA have represented their organisations at the METSTRADE Sustainability Panel Discussions, specifically about end-of-use boats, so we are very pleased to see this progress, and look forward to sharing more information as the project develops.

3. Major boatbuilders upping their game on sustainability

As we have discussed in previous blogs, superyacht builders are sometimes at the forefront of sustainable initiatives in design, construction and operation of some of the world’s largest leisure craft.

Yacht Environmental Transparency Index (YETI)

Many of them are now working with our show partners Water Revolution Foundation and helping them to develop and roll out their Yacht Environmental Transparency Index (YETI).  The index is focused on measuring the environmental impact of yachts during their operation. By using the Life Cycle Assessment approach, together with input of real time data from a test fleet of 130 yachts, the resulting calculation will give an ‘ecopoints’ score based on the vessels emissions and environmental impacts.

At METSTRADE 2021, Water Revolutions Foundation will be able to reveal a lot more detail about YETI, and how it is being effectively used, together with more details on their sustainability training courses, and their ocean conservation program, which is also being rolled out during this year.

And with another METSTRADE show coming in just a few months, I’m sure that many exhibitors will be developing and aiming their products towards a boat building market that has become ever more environmentally conscious and accountable for its output.

So, in my next blog, I’ll be looking into details of the sustainability objectives and action plans from some of the world's major recreational boat builders, who have already incorporated them into their business strategies.

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