RCCL’s Fain Takes On Trump’s Climate Change Policy


Richard Fain

In a rarity for the cruise business, an industry leader is taking a stand on a politically charged issue -- climate change.

In a recent letter to all RCCL employees, Chairman and CEO Richard Fain set up the issue: "President Trump announced the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris climate accord. Under [this climate accord], virtually every country on Earth agreed to take steps to address climate change."
What follows is a powerful argument against the White House's actions, with Fain giving reasons why the accord is important to stand behind, even if it is not perfect.
"I believe withdrawing is a bad decision, and I wish President Trump hadn't made it," Fain wrote. "Even if you disagree with pieces of the agreement, backing out of it at this stage is bad for the environment, bad for business, and bad for the role of America as a beacon in this world."
Fain's letter is risky, but it's also a great positioning statement for his company going forward. 

"[Trump's] decision, however, won't change RCCL's plans -- or the plans of many companies -- to do the right thing," he wrote. "Accord or no accord, we're in the fight against climate change to stay."
RCCL joins many other prominent U.S. corporations that have pledged to continue with plans to lower their carbon footprint despite Trump's executive actions.
"I take heart that major companies, sustainability groups, and the academic and scientific communities are determined to push ahead and make progress [in reaching the Paris goals] with or without government support," Fain wrote. "And we intend to be a part of that solution."

The Effects of Changing Seas on Cruise

Fain’s letter went on to describe the effects of climate change on the cruise business. He said that with many of the cruise industry's destinations being islands, the changes wrought by climate change makes them particularly susceptible. It goes without saying that an unhealthy coastline affects all destinations.
"As global citizens, as employers and as businesspeople, we have good reasons to continue fighting global climate change," wrote Fain. "Climate change impacts everyone, but it especially hits home for many of us in vulnerable locations."
Fain said high seas directly affect the lives of many employees: "Miami (site of RCCL headquarters) is on every short list of cities threatened by sea level rise, and so are the home countries of many crewmembers, including the Philippines and Indonesia. Destinations from the Galapagos Islands to the Caribbean to Alaska to Australia all have something at stake."
Investing In a Cleaner Future

Fain acknowledged that the cruise industry uses a lot of fuel relative to its activities.
He said RCCL will make financial investments so that its fuel usage will have a less negative impact on the planet: "Our ships are more sustainable and energy-efficient than ever and we are aiming higher," he noted.
"We are investing in LNG [liquified natural gas] and fuel cell technology for our new Icon-class ships, as well as scrubbers, air lubrication, and dozens of other emissions and energy efficiency initiatives across our fleet."
Doing so, he indicated, is part of the company mindset, not something tacked on: "Our focus on innovation includes relentless efforts to sail more sustainably and reduce our carbon footprint."
Seeking Solutions, Not Conflict

It seems telling that Fain chose to announce the company's commitment to fighting climate change through a letter to employees rather than a PR statement. CruiseWeek learned about the letter from RCL employees, not Fain.
We then asked Fain's permission to publish highlights of the letter. By agreeing to open internal emails to public scrutiny, Fain and RCL take a courageous stance. With partisan rhetoric, it's a difficult time to take a political stand, even though some view climate change as a nonpartisan issue.
The cruise industry is on the front lines when it comes to many hot-button issues. Whether it's bad news on terrorism, the economy, climate change, or the environment, the business is particularly vulnerable. It's encouraging to see an attempt to affect outcomes rather than be reactive. 

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