Water Revolution Foundation: Driving Superyacht Sustainability
Robert Van Tol, Executive Director of Water Revolution Foundation, shares about the organisation’s efforts to neutralise the superyacht industry’s ecological footprint.
What led to the creation of the Water Revolution Foundation?
The founders wanted to get like-minded yachting companies together to work on tackling the industry’s environmental impact and reducing the use of valuable natural resources. With its affluent clientele, yachting is in a very strategic position to drive change and be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
Being innovative, often even custom building, and with a strong passion for the water and exploring the beauty of nature, yachting has all ingredients to become a force for positive change and a steward of our beloved oceans. The realisation and utilisation of this position was missing, so Water Revolution Foundation was founded to provide a collaborative platform to drive sustainability.
How does the organisation collaborate with other yachting bodies also working towards setting standards on environmental and operational issues?
We naturally seek collaboration where it fits. We work closely with SYBAss (Superyacht Builders Association), which has permanent consultancy status to represent the interest of the superyacht industry at IMO (International Maritime Organization).
We are in contact with ICOMIA (International Council of Marine Industry Associations), PYA (Professional Yachting Association), LYBRA (Leading Yacht Brokers Association), Yacht Club de Monaco and other organisations. Wherever we see fit, we look for and welcome collaboration.
How is the Foundation appealing to superyacht builders and owners?
Yachting is a specific niche within the maritime sector. Where commercial shipping mostly looks at the economic ROI, yachting has different drivers for its clients to purchase a yacht and how to approach the reduction of environmental impact. We believe rewarding those who invest in more environmentally friendly technology is more effective and a positive approach that we need as an emotionally driven, niche sector.
It all starts with measuring, which is why we launched our Yacht Assessment Tool, a software tool customised for large yachts that’s able to assess the entire environmental impact of these complex products. It’s based on life-cycle assessment (LCA), so it not only assesses the impact when it operates but includes the build, maintenance and refit stages a yacht goes through in its life cycle.
By comparing and rating yachts on their environmental credentials, we expect the incentives to be worth the investments and that clients will want to go far beyond only fuel savings. It will hopefully lead to a new summum of luxury, sustainable luxury.
We’re working on expanding the list of benefits for yachts with a better rating. However, we also take care of the existing fleet by providing the tools to scientifically assess and improve the yachts, to be upgraded on the rating index.
With our newly launched Database of Sustainable Solutions, we also aim to collect, verify and promote existing sustainable solutions that everyone should be aware of and should implement, and where new R&D budgets can further build upon. These solutions are expected to provide concrete ways to upgrade the yachts, showing how all our tools are interlinked.
What has been the feedback on the Yacht Assessment Tool?
Assessing provides insights to what the impact factually is and where most of this impact comes from. This provides the basic information on how to improve with the quickest and most significant reduction. It also provides for a re-thinking process of choices, such as in build materials, onboard systems, interior materials and energy load.
The first success lies in the conversations and reconsiderations that are coming from the assessment and the data collection that’s required, which wasn’t a topic two years ago. This will lead to more conscious and better-informed decisions, both for the industry, such as designers and builders, and for clients and their teams.
How was the Foundation’s superyacht designers roundtable earlier this year?
Yacht designers are major influencers of any new project because they’re involved so early on, when a lot is still possible. Recognising this shared responsibility and especially opportunity strengthens the group to make forward-thinking proposals to their clients. Yet they also recognised what support they need to take on this role. Sharing knowledge and solutions is the way forward, so we’re looking for regular editions of this roundtable, which started spontaneously.
How is the Yacht Environmental Transparency Index progressing?
We have been working on YETI since March 2019. It was initiated to better showcase effects of new technology proposed for new projects and to reward the choice of these solutions. This index became our first joint industry project, with 11 leading shipyards, four naval architecture companies and three knowledge institutes collaborating to develop a very sophisticated rating system for large yachts.
Yachts are very complex and we again need to take the life-cycle assessment approach. We are making good progress and will start testing the beta calculator with a peer-review group. It’s crucial for the sector to make and be able to show significant progress. The yachting sector is under public scrutiny all the time, so any effort in sustainability needs to be real, effective and scientifically sound, as well as supported by the industry. We expect to present YETI 1.0 in November.
What else are you working on?
We’re launching our first ocean conservation project. Yachting is intrinsically connected with the oceans and directly depends on their well-being. The oceans should become major stakeholders of the yachting industry and be looked after. It’s the most crucial natural resource, for humanity but also for yachting. The yachting community can take their passion for the seas to a whole new level and become true ocean stewards and an example for sustainable ocean use.
Has the Foundation had to ‘change the goalposts’ for any reasons since it was founded?
The support for our mission and work has only grown since our founding, despite the Covid-19 challenges. We have not adjusted our course; we have only reconfirmed our commitment to it. It’s a collective journey and a steep learning curve for all involved. The success lies in the fact we started within the yachting sector, so we have its best interests at heart, while being ambitious and strict on what needs to happen to become much more sustainable and future proof. We were founded to help the industry become more sustainable and that has been appreciated as well as effective.
We remain a lean organisation and challenge new partners to formulate a project within their field of expertise and where they see the need for improvement. We can dedicate 100 per cent of their contribution to that project if it meets the criteria and is in line with our mission. In the end, we are a collaborative platform, and initiatives for improvements are most effective when they come bottom up.
Does Water Revolution Foundation have any plans to expand its guidance outside the superyacht sector, to builders and owners of smaller yachts?
Plans, yes. Ultimately, we would like to see yachting becoming what Formula One is for the automotive sector – an arena for prototypes, hubs for innovation, pushing for technological solutions and leading the way towards a sustainable maritime sector, in harmony with the oceans it sails on. Size does not define that; ambition and vision does.
About Water Revolution Foundation
Founded in 2018, Water Revolution Foundation is an independent, international, science-driven, non-profit organisation started from within the superyacht industry that’s taking the lead to neutralise the sector’s ecological footprint and preserve the world’s precious oceans. The Board and the Foundation’s partners see an urgent need to accelerate the implementation of sustainable and innovative technology in the superyacht industry to lower its impact and save the world’s oceans. Water Revolution Foundation’s mission is to drive sustainability in the superyacht industry through collaboration and innovation.
Anchor Partners: Abeking & Rasmussen, AkzoNobel, Benetti, La Ciotat Shipyards, Damen Yachting, Feadship, Heesen, De Koninggroep, Lürssen, MB92, Oceanco, Rybovich, Sanlorenzo
More information can be found on their website here.
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