If you’re a designer, outfitter or supplier for cruise ships – or just a human on earth – you will have heard all about sustainability these last few years. We have been called to action; we must be sustainable! But, if the need to be sustainable is definite, the question of how to get started is more unclear. Common questions include: What does sustainability mean for your business practises? What makes a material sustainable; what makes a process sustainable? Is it all worth it?

We talked to a supplier, a designer and a cruise line executive who are all passionate about sustainability. Some of the answers they gave us may surprise you:

Sustainable products can get you specified

Pivoting to sustainability is going to use up resources: time and money must be spent planning and initiating new processes, altering your supply chain, designing new products. If your company is going to commit to this process, then they will want to know that there will be returns. Well, we have good news! Being able to explain your sustainability story to clients may secure you the contract.

My Nguyen, Director of Interior Design, Holland America Group, described how having a convincing sustainability story clinched flooring supplier Dansk Wilton a newbuild contract. She described how the leadership team were looking at three excellent flooring companies who had all met the brief. But, when deciding who to award the contract to, it was Dansk Wilton’s excellent sustainability details that convinced them. She explained, ‘We loved the sustainability story, we loved that the carpets didn’t include any dyes; it was all-natural colours with wool, and the aesthetics were beautiful.’

It might be cheaper to be sustainable

Lone Ditmer, Marketing Manager and Sustainable Business Development, Dansk Wilton, believes that companies don’t have to compromise on offering sustainable and affordable products. Dansk Wilton is highly committed to its sustainable practices, one of which being reducing their manufacturing carbon footprint. Lone explained that the Danish company have opted to manufacture closer to home, saying ‘We are manufacturing in Denmark […] and have been able to make our carpets at the same price point. This is very important, I think, to make the products available for everybody. It’s not just a matter of price.’

Per Eriksson, Business Director, Tillberg Design of Sweden, agrees. Companies who are committed to a circular approach to manufacturing will be reusing and recycling their materials and products, so may even find the efficiency of their processes improving. Per observed, ‘It is not always more costly to be more sustainable. It is costly to be sloppy but being clean and safe is not so costly. You might find you are actually saving money on having control of your production.’

There is certification for sustainable products

You may be thinking, ‘if it not only saves me money but can secure me contracts, then I want to be involved! But where do I get started? Who decides what sustainability is?’

Lone explains that Dansk Wilton has taken their lead from Cradle to Cradle, which she describes as, ‘a philosophy looking into the circular economy. That means seeing materials as nutrients for something else. Waste is always a resource for something new. Having that said, it’s also a certification tool but for us it’s also been a tool for business development within sustainability.’

Cradle to Cradle not only provide a framework for what makes your product sustainable, but they offer product certification that stands up on a global level. You can learn more on the Cradle to Cradle website here. You can also find out more about sustainable design certifications available in our handy glossary.

Anyone at any level of the company can make a difference

As we’ve said, pivoting to sustainability can be a big, company-wide change. But what if you are not in a position to shape your company’s business model and future planning? Can you still make a difference? Yes! Don’t feel helpless, there is plenty that you can enact at any level of the business. Firstly, you can take on sustainability as one of your business values. Whether you are a sales executive, a designer, or at any role within a design firm, outfitters and suppliers hold sustainability as a core value alongside quality, price and other guiding factors.

Secondly, as My says, sustainable thinking can inform your creativity. From her perspective as a director of design and operations, she encouraged people to ask more questions and really familiarise themselves with the ‘why’ behind a ship’s design. An example she gave was, ‘if you were designing for a restaurant on a cruise ship that requires food display, ask questions that are going to help you innovate ideas where you can provide a bountiful luxurious aesthetic without creating space that the cruise lines have to put so much food in that they have to throw it away every four hours due to USPH regulation.’

In fact, Per agrees, designing with a deep knowledge of ship operations and the desire to create a sustainable product, can reignite the fun in a project. He says, ‘It’s not really hard, to ask more questions. To get the understanding, the logic behind a feature in a ship. And then we can start reinventing that feature, which is really the most innovative and fun.’

Want to gain more insights on the latest cruise interiors news? Sign up to receive our newsletter and stay up-to-date with industry trends and updates. You can also find out more about our leading trade show and conference, Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe here.