Spring has finally sprung in the northern hemisphere and commitment to sustainability is high on the agenda this season. Yards are producing sustainability plans. Yachting organisations launching sustainability programmes. World sailing races encouraging sustainable practices. Builders launching yachts with new technology and crew pledging their efforts. As we emerge into this post-pandemic world, we are seeing this commitment thrive and can only hope this continues. Actions we hope will begin to speak louder than words. 

Talking of actions. Seastainable has recently teamed up with Ethical Yacht Wear to launch ‘The S.E.A Club,’ an ambassador program. Bringing together the yachting community on a global scale to put the ocean first. Making positive changes, leaving the industry better than we found it. When it comes to commitment and change, this aspect of a community is so important. As the familiar quote goes, ‘individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean.’

Why sustainability isn’t just about the environment 

The commitment to a community and the people of our industry is the cornerstone behind this month’s musings. 

It’s no secret that sustainability is a huge encompassing topic. To make our industry more sustainable there is a lot more than the pesky plastic water bottles and the other billions of various environmental impacts we are having, to be considered. When it comes to these environmental impacts, we obviously have a long journey ahead of us in the industry. But we also mustn’t forget sustainability in its entirety. Because, if we don’t look at the whole topic, the industry will simply never be sustainable. 

The sustainability of the industry means meeting our own, present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. These needs aren’t just about the natural resources but also the social and economic factors. 

The 3 P’s. 

Planet, profit and people. This month I want to focus on the people. 

The people 

The yachting industry is a lot more than the shiny billion-dollar yacht in the marina. One billionaire’s decision to buy a superyacht helps keep so many employed, with the impacts trickling out globally. 

It is a huge industry, with a domino effect. From the people who design, build , insure , decorate, supply, and sell them. To the people that work on them, the heart of the industry (bias inserted here), the crew. 

We (I hope) already understand that the environment is paramount. Saving our oceans is key. Our jobs depend on it. Our lives depend on it. But, what about the impacts the industry is having on people? When it comes to ‘social sustainability,’ this can be defined as a sustainable, successful place that promotes wellbeing. Through understanding what people need from the places they live and the places they work. For yacht crew, that happens to be the same place, hence the importance of achieving this social sustainability doubles. 

A job where you get to travel the world, and earn a healthy salary each month. So what are the downsides? What are the issues facing crew when it comes to developing a sustainable industry? From unpaid wages, health issues, crew conflict, discrimination, harassment, alcohol & drug abuse, contractual issues to issues transitioning out of the industry. 

‘But, it’s yachting, you’ll never change it.’ ‘It’s just the way it is.’ 

These air quotes are wrong. Like, the environmental impacts, if individual crew members do their bit. If yachts adapt and alter processes and products, change will follow. 

Equality & Diversity  

When it comes to social sustainability. Equality, diversity and inclusion all play a huge role. Equality being the act of fair treatment and opportunity to all crew. Whilst diversity takes into account differences between crew members. From age, ability, gender, race, religion, faith, sexual orientation and placing positive values on these differences.

Unfortunately, it won’t come as a shock to many, that the yachting industry is rife with discrimination. Simply, the need to have a profile photo on a CV is evidence enough. 

In recent years the concepts of diversity have been slowly emerging into conversations throughout the industry. Gender is the most visible form of diversity, in a very male-dominated industry, this is clear to see. It was just yesterday I was on a phone call with someone telling me about “when the girls get their cleaning caddies,” an innocent presumption, but discrimination all the same. 

There have been global improvements and positive moves towards a more equal and inclusive world. Shown for example through the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 5 (gender equality), the yachting industry legislation for this is somewhat lagging behind. Although there are organisations out there making a difference to these issues. 

She of the Sea’s aim is to move past the industry’s outdated status quo of the industry and to help pave the way for a more sustainable industry when it comes to onboard cultures. Their diversity and inclusion pledge is bringing together organisations and individuals within the industry to highlight the issues and work together in improving the industry. I also want to mention the work Yachting International Radio are doing with their diversity segment, highlighting the issues and raising awareness throughout the industry. 

A Work – Life balance 

Quality of life is vital for yacht crew. Their place of work is also their home. There needs to be an inclusive and safe environment for all. 

The concept of wellbeing has had a huge glow up in recent years and rightly so. Wellbeing encompasses our physical and mental health and is responsible for how we live our lives.

When it comes to onboard happiness, it is essential there are policies and procedures in place for crew wellbeing. This can mean anything from access to all kinds of healthcare support. Both physical and mental to regular feedback and training programmes to further develop their career. 

No ‘I’ in team 

Put a group of people together in a confined living environment. Have them work long hours together, throw in spurts of not going onto land to see other people and you have yourself a rather complicated social experiment, or…the life of yacht crew. 

Whilst the topic of mental health is huge and diverse and in itself should have its own column, mental health within yachting is even more so. A yachties job onboard comes with a unique set of features which differentiates it somewhat from those ‘normal’ 9-5’s, for example demanding physical and mental working conditions, employment insecurity, long hours sometimes resulting in stress and fatigue whilst living in an environment that appears to be ‘perfect’ and ‘faultless’ at all times. On top of this, obtaining support and assistance whilst onboard can be difficult. Whilst, there is no magic bullet for mental health issues but what is key for the industry’s future is recognising it and building up awareness. We can already see this today from the work of organisations such as ISWAN, Yacht Crew Help and the various mental health awareness courses for crew now available. 

Yachts that consider the wellbeing of crew onboard tend to have a lower crew turnover and in turn strengthens the crew, as a team. 

Lead the way 

Like all issues onboard it is vital to have good management to oversee the policies and procedures that are being put in place. This governance needs to come from a whole host of people from the management company, the Captain through to the HOD’s. Leadership issues can pose a whole host of problems when running a boat. 

Both crew recruitment and retention are key for the industry, prioritising crew welfare can see a huge improvement in these two factors. With organisations such as PYA, Safety4Sea, ISWAN and industry leaders in crew welfare, such as The Crew Coach crew welfare is slowly creeping up the agenda. 

What next?

Social sustainability isn’t a new issue, this conversation facing the industry hasn’t just started but change still needs to come. Seastainable’s aim is to raise awareness of aspects that stop the industry from developing in the correct way, we want to see a change that will prope

l the industry into a sustainable future. Whilst there are plenty of pledges and promises out there, which is amazing and a great start, our actions also need to start mirroring our words. 

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