Greenwashing on the Celebrity Solstice 1: WWF and carbon emissions

"Greenwashing" refers to the business practice of promoting, falsely, a positive environmental agenda.  It's a marketing scheme that hints at environmental sustainability and protection without environmental sustainability and protection actually happening.

The focus is on capturing a greater market share of the people who want to protect the environment.  In greenwashing, any real environmental gains are minimal because, when you remove the fluff, the commitment is not there.  

Selling merchandise on the Solstice to support WWF.  This happens once per cruise.  It is unclear how much money is raised, and where this money goes.  Participants, however, probably believe they are doing something positive for the environment.  I doubt it.

Celebrity Cruises regularly promotes its partnership with WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.  However, this partnership is difficult to see in action.  First, more than half of the crew that I've heard mention this partnership refer to WWF as the "World Wildlife Foundation."  As far as I know the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wildlife Foundation are two separate organizations.  So, when the crew don't know the parties involved in the partnership, the relationship isn't very deep.

In the daily on-board newsletter, the Solstice features some WWF factoid.  Here's a recent one:

Seriously, 43 words?  And how will this change behavior?

The corporate partnership with WWF is outlined by Celebrity Cruises' parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.  The details of this partnership are obscure.  I suspect Royal Caribbean pays a fee to WWF for being able to promote this "partnership."  The most recent report I can find from WWF is dated 2014.  For example,  WWF's relationship with Bank of America involves BoA contributing $1-3 million in 2014 to WWF for new checking accounts and credit cards, plus "for every $100 in net retail purchase made with the card, BoA will also contribute $0.25 to WWF."  What does BoA get?  They get to tell the world they are... helping wildlife!


This same report notes that Royal Caribbean was expected to donate $25-100,000 to WWF in 2014, with no specific engagement noted other than "conservation focus: marine."  Chump change for a corporation like Royal Caribbean, that depends on a healthy ocean for its business.

So, Joe and Jane Guest keep hearing about this partnership with the World Wildlife "Foundation/Fund," and are happy to tell their friends that they cruise on a ship supporting wildlife conservation.  And they have a stuffed panda or clown fish to prove it!


The "Save the Waves" logo is featured on recycling containers.  However, the reduce and reuse principles for guests seem lacking.  I think I heard that a staff support fund benefits from the sale of the valuable recycled material to the tune of $15,000/year.  What happens to the materials that cannot be sold, especially given China's recent decision to greatly limit its purchase of the world's plastic trash?

The staff wear name tags featuring the line, "Save the Waves" (also printed on trash and recycling cans), but I'm not sure they could articulate the goals of the program.  The Save the Waves program is a broad corporate program with 4 key principles:

•  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Reduce the generation of waste material, reuse and recycle wherever possible, and properly dispose of remaining wastes.  Note: The staff recycles.  The guests don't seem to be encouraged to reduce and reuse.

•  Practice Pollution Prevention - Nothing may be thrown overboard. Nothing.  Note: I love this principle, but how it compliance monitored?

•  Go Above and Beyond Compliance (ABC) - Means doing more than is required by regulations.  Note: I think this is a great operating philosophy.

•  Continuous Improvement - Change is the only constant; innovation is encouraged and rewarded.  Note: I obviously can't speak from a crew perspective, but I can say from personal experience that it seems difficult for a guest to suggest innovations, and the hundreds of thousands of guests onboard every year have some unique talents and perspectives to contribute.

I've looked over a copy of the 2011 Saves the Waves summary.  There are some impressive goals and gains here, but the lack of an updated report is problematic.  Has the commitment to these goals since 2011 lapsed?  After all, it is 2018!

Slides from presentation on the environmental footprint of the Celebrity Solstice.

I've been to 3 presentations by officers to learn about the workings of the ship and how the ship is designed to reduce its environmental impact.  From an engineering perspective, I'm impressed.  Of course, I'm not an engineer, so I can't really assess most of the claims.  I thought I heard a captain claim that the ship got 7-9 FEET per gallon of diesel.  This is a lower efficiency than some other ships, but the Solstice has 4 diesel engines generating electricity for the propulsion pods on the stern and all other power needs on this ship.  Regardless, it consumes great quantities of fuel, but it moves 2000+ passengers and 1000+ crew from destination to destination.  I would like to know about the carbon emissions (2020 goal - "RCL and its consolidated subsidiaries will reduce the GHG intensity of its operations by 35% from the 2005 baseline, measured in tons of CO2e per ALBDO x km2."  In addition to reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) by 35%, are there other carbon offset efforts? And' of course' things should improve from a 2005 baseline.  There are newer, more efficient systems and engines now in use.  This reduction should have been compared to a more recent baseline, like 2010 or 2015.  In fact, Royal Caribbean estimated its 2011 greenhouse gas footprint as 4,290,865 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).  In 2018, how is the ship doing?

I've been keeping note of greenwashing, missed opportunities to educate guests, and opportunities to be innovative.  I'll point some of these out in my next blog.

Sunrise, South Pacific Ocean



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