As this year marks the 10th edition of Travel + Leisure India & South Asia’s reader’s choice India’s Best Awards, we are elated to introduce IBA Icons—an editorial-led category that felicitates 10 changemakers and trendsetters across hospitality and lifestyle industries. Meet the Sustainability Icon in Hospitality, Sonu Shivdasani, Founder & CEO, Soneva.
Founder & CEO, Soneva
You cannot talk about sustainability and the Maldives without bringing up Soneva. Not only did the hospitality brand introduce barefoot luxury in the archipelago in 1995 with Soneva Fushi, but it also pioneered sustainability in the island nation that is now a favourite holiday destination of people around the world. Ever since then, Soneva has continuously innovated to stay ahead of the curve. The founder and CEO, Sonu Shivdasani, believes it’s his responsibility to do so. “We, as an industry, consume far more than our fair share of resources. I believe that all companies must have a purpose beyond profit. We can find opportunities to make small positive changes that do not impact negatively on our profitability or our guests’ perception of our products. In fact, they can often enhance our guests’ experience,” he says. Soneva has a long history of such initiatives: from producing and bottling its own mineral water since its inception, to banning plastic bottles in 2008, introducing the first solar farm in the Maldives, recycling 90 per cent of its waste, and in 2014, opening Soneva Art & Glass—the Maldives’ first hot glass studio that transforms discarded bottles into works of art. Its most recent addition is the Makers’ Place, a carbon-neutral island studio—in collaboration with British artist Alexander James Hamilton—that recycles plastic and aluminium into art, practical objects, and building material. Recently, Soneva launched a programme to restore coral reefs that have been decimated by rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, El Niño events, and pollution. As the world ruminates on grim predictions of climate change, Shivdasani’s commitment and contribution to furthering sustainability in a fragile ecosystem make him a true IBA Icon.
View this post on Instagram