Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2023

138 Photo: credit Virgin Voyages has installed water refill stations onboard its ships for guests as part of its pledge to avoid using single-use plastic carbon as well as a price for not hitting the regulatory mandate to use a certain percentage of your fuel from renewable energy-based sources,” says Stoneberg. “What’s interesting is that the market is showing that while sustainable marine fuels are not at competitive prices today, the regulations are shaping up with incentives and penalties that should encourage the market to shift.” One of the positive surprises Stoneberg found when starting this work was the overwhelming number of responses from suppliers to Virgin’s request. “There are more out there than we thought which was an encouraging sign,” she says. “Most of the time with this type of work, the solutions don’t exist unless you ask for them to be there. Some of the suppliers are in a position to scale up to meet the demand if the right policies are implemented in the relevant locations.” While Virgin may not be one of the big cruise players, it does have a powerful voice. “As the Virgin brand, we’re expected to lead on climate and to be innovative, so we want to help the industry get to where it needs to by bringing the right partners to the table,” says Stoneberg. “Sustainability is a business imperative that needs to be kept top of mind. We all applaud each other for what each is doing.” Noting that the general stance on sustainability has changed, Stoneberg says: “Covid really increased people’s awareness – brands doubled down on sustainability and more governments made commitments, which has significantly changed the conversation and the focus for businesses. “If you’re not talking about decarbonisation right now, there is not a clear future for your company. The business value for environment, social and governance strategies (ESG) has been recognised. Some markets have demonstrated that when you have ESG measures in place, you’re considered a less risky business. You’re planning for the future, so your investors are happier and you’re demonstrating alignment with issues your employees and customers care about so your returns are higher. This proves the business case for sustainability and ESG, whereas it wasn’t as clear before.” There is no doubting Virgin’s commitment to the green agenda. And for Stoneberg, who started her career in renewable energy and has worked in the sustainability space for the past 20 years, “things have changed drastically”. For example, she says: “there are now some places in the USA where renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels”. Now that is progress. “ If you’re not talking about decarbonisation right now, there is not a clear future for your company” Photo: Virgin Voyages INTERVIEW