IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Marriott International have launched a partnership to protect the environment and support Thailand’s local communities through mangrove restoration, the use of sustainable seafood sources and local procurement practices in Bang Krachao and areas in the South potentially to include Mai Khao, Tai Muang and Khao Lak. The two organisations recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding and opened a “Mangrove Education Garden” at the Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel, followed by a planting of 100 mangroves by Marriott associates at Bang Krachao, often described as “the lung of Bangkok”.
The partnership will take an integrated approach, targeting three main initiatives. Marriott will help raise funds and awareness among its guests for the activities of the IUCN Thailand Programme to support local communities in mangrove restoration. Marriott and IUCN will work together to identify opportunities for creating small businesses in local communities for the production of sustainable souvenirs and gifts for guests at its hotels in Thailand. IUCN will help Marriott International in locating sources of sustainable seafood for its hotels.
Speaking at the signing of the agreement, Dr Robert Mather, Head of IUCN’s Southeast Asia Group, said: “I am very excited by this innovative new partnership. It moves beyond the simple ideas of hotels demonstrating environmental commitments just by reducing water and electricity consumption, to really working on how they can be a force for positive change for the communities, habitats and species in the landscapes and seascapes on which their business ultimately depends.”
More than half of Thailand’s original mangroves have been lost since the 1970s. After the 2004 tsunami, a new determination to replant mangroves in Thailand was marked by the symbolic planting of a mangrove by former US President, Bill Clinton, in Phuket and the launching of “Mangroves for the Future” (MFF) in 2006. MFF is a partnership-based initiative promoting investment in coastal ecosystems for sustainable development, and is co-chaired by IUCN and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). MFF has provided technical expertise to support the development of the Marriott partnership, including training of hotel staff.
Commenting on the agreement, Don Cleary, Marriott International’s Chief Operations Officer in Asia Pacific, said: “This is a very exciting time for us all — our associates, guests, local communities and the environment, who all will benefit from this partnership. IUCN and Marriott International have powerful networks and together we hope to inspire best practice in environmental partnerships.”
Mangroves play a critical role in protecting the coastline from severe storms and rises in sea level. In addition, mangrove forests are important for conserving biodiversity and storing carbon. The partnership will help restore Thailand’s mangroves and support communities living nearby Marriott International’s properties in Thailand. The goal is to plant 500,000 mangrove saplings and relevant species within the next three years.
This engagement falls under Marriott International’s global commitment to sustainability and is embedded in the “Spirit to Serve” initiative. On the IUCN side, the partnership underlines the organisation’s commitment to working with the private sector to effect change, and contributes to two very significant projects focused on coastal protection and management in Asia, Mangroves for the Future and Building Coastal Resilience.