The cruise industry is working hard at its “green” image in its marine operations and some aspects of hotel operations. It has also adopted socially responsible policies in its employment practices and in other areas, while supporting worthy causes and encouraging employees to give back to their communities.

In keeping with the reputation of the cruise industry, where food is so emphasized, there may be another “green” area where the industry needs to be proactive.

The cruise lines have to keep their attraction and reputation of wonderful cuisine and generous and creative food servings against a growing concern of responsibility for the world’s resources.  What needs to be encouraged are more policies and programs that respect the environment in this area as well … to show a balance of opulence against a possible perception of abuse of the earth’s resources, gluttony and waste of food in the light of a global food shortage and rising food prices.

What to do:  The industry can publicize its concern for depleting food supplies and un-necessary waste.  Cutting back won’t be easy and may not be necessary. An effort to show an industry, which, for example, plants trees and supports local and regional producers of food does much to enhance a concern for its carbon footprint.  And perhaps programs that encourage fish farms in developing countries. We wonder if it is a good idea to publicize unlimited caviar or lobster galore?  We don’t have the answers but are posing some questions here, and pardon the obvious pun – food for thought.  

In April we heard an astonishing speech at the Marine Hotel Association trade show by Jerry Greenfield, one of the founders of Ben & Jerry’s.  He spoke of a “spiritual” aspect of doing business – his social mission.  This company, he claims, which is now worth, by some estimates, $300 million (owned by Unilever), still clings to its initial philosophy of what good you do comes back to you.  “We give back and we make money,” he said.  To use one example, Ben & Jerry’s buys goods from Greystone Bakery in New York, which employs former inmates, recovering drug users and the homeless. This is a company that gives jobs, not just handouts.  Eating ice cream and baked goods we all like to do, but knowing that this company is doing some good makes it easier to swallow.

We’ve all heard this: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.  We’ve always applauded the industry for creating thousands and thousands of jobs and training for crew all over the world.  A handout only lasts a short time, while a job and training can last a lifetime.  We hope the cruise industry will continue its commitment to the environment and keep thinking about its own carbon footprint.  Concern for the world’s resources will help us all.

Angela Reale Mathisen & Oivind Mathisen

Excerpted from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2008