By Adam Quandt
Sustainability is certainly not a new notion to our world; however, the idea of sustainability and operating business sustainably has gained more and more momentum over the last few years, especially as we look at the recreational boating industry of both today and the future.
“Innovation is alive and well in the recreational boating community. We’re seeing companies big and small reinforce their commitment to the next generation of boating and amplifying our industry's dedication to environmental stewardship and conservation,” the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) said on sustainability in the recreational boating industry. “This includes product line enhancements, policy imperatives, and expanding accessibility to new boating technologies. Our industry is working diligently to make our product lines more sustainable—from incorporating recycled materials into manufacturing processes to developing more environmentally friendly propulsion systems—recreational boating manufacturers have shown a clear desire to innovate and explore new frontiers.”
NMMA president Frank Hugelmeyer touched on sustainability in a recent issue of Boating Industry while looking at the industry from an aspect of innovation and how innovation is necessary not only to continue moving our industry forward, but to also make our industry and products more sustainable to meet consumer standards.
“Agility in reacting to our evolving world is essential, but so is proactive innovation. Our industry revolves around appreciation for the environment’s natural beauty and enjoyment of water sources that require special care and protection. Sustainability should be top of mind for all industries in the coming decades and for boating it is paramount,” Hugelmeyer said in his column. “Today’s consumer and financial investor looks for industries and responsible companies to publicly report on how they are annually working towards a more sustainable future. At NMMA, we seek to align with society’s expectations and needs. Helping our member companies navigate and excel through change is an opportunity we see as fundamental to staving off existential threats that face the larger outdoor recreation community.”
Some of the recreational boating industry’s largest manufacturers have increasingly put a larger emphasis on sustainability, not only in their manufacturing processes, but their respective organization’s plans as an entire company. From newly created corporate positions focused on sustainability and the environment, to new branches of a company all together, marine manufacturers have their sights set zeroed in on sustainability as they usher in a new era within the industry.
Building the team
Taking on a sustainable mindset and moving our industry to sustainable efforts is no simple feat and therefore takes the right industry leaders to tackle important issues and look at the recreational boating industry through a new lens.
Most recently, the NMMA created an all-new director of environment, health and safety compliance and announced former Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc. (BRP) team member Jeff Wasil would be taking on the role.
In this new position, Wasil will serve as the technical representative to external organizations, advise NMMA members on environmental regulations and work on international issues impacting the boating industry.
“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff to NMMA. He brings extensive technical experience to this role to harmonize emissions standards and manage the transition to low carbon technologies and marine electrification,” NMMA senior vice president, government relations and regulatory affairs Tillie Fowler said in the announcement. “An avid boater, Jeff is passionate about boating and has shared his experiences with global regulatory agencies to minimize disruption and help move our industry forward.”
Similarly, last spring, Yamaha announced the creation of a new Marine External Affairs Division. The new division, lead by Yamaha veteran Martin Peters, was designed to strengthen government affairs activities, increase sustainability efforts and enhance external communications.
“At Yamaha, we are proud of the leadership position we have taken on the conservation of both marine and freshwater fisheries,” division manager of Yamaha Marine External Affairs Martin Peters said. “Yamaha’s record on conservation is well-documented and our dedication is clear. We believe in conservation and sustainability because we rely on the resource, perhaps more so than other companies do.”
With manufacturers touching almost every aspect of boat building components and a variety of boat manufacturers in its portfolio, Brunswick Corporation is a major marine player with multiple facets to look at when it comes to sustainability.
Upon publishing its 2021 sustainability report in the spring, Brunswick Corporation also announced that it had hired Jennifer Koenig as the company’s first chief sustainability officer.
“As the world’s largest recreational marine manufacturer, we believe it’s our responsibility to serve as environmental steward of the world’s natural resources,” Jennifer Koenig said. “Our commitment spans a wide range of initiatives from energy efficiency in our facilities to the circulatory of our products to our total carbon emissions and even to support of environmental conservation efforts.”
And while getting the right people in place to focus a spotlight on sustainability has been key to moving the needle in the marine industry, efforts across the industry span much wider than just that.
Improving the process
As sustainability takes more and more focus, marine manufacturers are stepping up to revamp their manufacturing processes and facilities to help their environmental impacts.
Yamaha is approaching sustainability in not only its marine operations but all of its operations around the globe as guided by Yamaha Motor Corporation’s recent announcement that it has accelerated its goals for carbon reduction. The manufacturer is pushing initiatives centered on minimizing its energy use, while also relying on cleaner energy. As of now, Yamaha Motor Corporation has its sights set on a 92% reduction on CO2 emissions by 2035.
Through its Rightwaters initiative, Yamaha has launched numerous projects aimed at sustainability in both conservation and improving manufacturing processes.
Introduced in the United States in 2019, Yamaha Rightwaters is an international sustainability program that champions environmental stewardship and supports marine habitat protection, management and restoration through education, scientific research and partnerships to ensure healthy marine ecosystems for generations to come.
At the beginning of this year, the Yamaha Rightwaters recycling program – a program launched in August 2021 -- announced it had returned more than 10,000 pounds of polyethylene and polypropylene sheet plastics back to base materials since the program’s launch.
“Polyethylene and Polypropylene constitute a substantial portion of the plastic in our oceans harming fish populations. This pilot program proves these plastics can be broken down in a cost-effective manner that Yamaha Rightwaters can potentially replicate on a national level,” Peters said at the time of the announcement. “It also demonstrates that Yamaha builder and dealer partners are willing to become active participants in the program, further underscoring a marine industry commitment to conservation and sustainability.”
Within the program, Yamaha developed a reverse logistics program to return the protective covers from select boat builders, retail dealers and its three boat production facilities. The sheet plastic used in the pilot program comes from protective boat covers at Contender Boats, Regulator Marine, Xpress Boats, Yamaha Jet Boat Manufacturing (YJBM), Skeeter and G3 Boats.
Also under the Yamaha Rightwaters banner, the Yamaha U.S. Marine Business Unit pledges to achieve carbon neutrality in its operations by 2030. With manufacturing facilities in six states and office or other facilities in two others, plans for solar installations are underway as the first phase of the plan.
Under the Brunswick umbrella, a variety of manufacturers are working hard to up sustainability efforts across the board.
“Brunswick has long been focused on environmental sustainability within our production processes,” Koenig said. “A perfect example is the use of recycled aluminum for castings of Mercury Marine engine blocks, but we also have multiple successful efforts related to reduced water consumption and waste generated from operations.”
Earlier this year, Brunswick announced it is expanding its partnership with Arkema, a leader in specialty materials, to develop a fully recyclable fiberglass boat that integrates Arkema’s Elium liquid thermoplastic resin on all the vessel’s composite parts, core, and adhesives. The project is part of Brunswick’s enterprise-wide sustainability program and is expected to allow for hull and structural components to be fully recycled at end of life and reintroduced into production processes, reducing the amount of disposable material and sourcing of virgin raw materials.
In an effort to change electricity needs, Brunswick companies are also looking to the help of solar power. As of July 2022, Brunswick Corporation’s Venture Group (BVG), which comprises the company’s Bayliner, Heyday, Trophy, Quicksilver and Uttern boat brands, announced the installation of an array of photovoltaic solar panels at its location in Vila Nova de Ceveira, Portugal. The new array, which sits atop a 3,000-square-meter segment of the facility’s roof, comprises 535 panels that will generate approximately 40% of the location’s daily electricity needs. Along with the solar project in Portugal, Brunswick’s Mercury announced a partnership with Alliant Energy to build a five-megawatt, 32-acre solar array in eastern Fond du Lac County, Wis. to further advance the company’s sustainability initiatives.
With impacts reaching far beyond just its marine group, Volvo Group has the ambition to be a net-zero emissions company by 2050, at the very latest.
“Environmental requirements for Volvo Group production facilities are followed at all Volvo Penta production facilities. We look at each part of our process in turn and make the necessary changes to lower our impact,” Volvo Penta’s vice president of Lexington Operations Petter Bergman said. “By switching the energy sources for our heating and electricity, for example, we dramatically reduce the climate impact from our factories. Today, some of our factories and buildings meet our most stringent internal standard and have nearly zero CO2 emissions for their operations. Today all our operations are ISO 14001 certified”
The Volvo Penta manufacturing facility in Vara, Sweden – where Volvo Penta’s D4/D6 range and heavy-duty marine engines are produced – is already operated completely carbon neutral. Even going as far as capturing heat from the plant’s engine foundry and reusing it to heat the facility.
As a new approach to sustainability, Suzuki Marine took to its products to make a difference and put a spotlight on conservation.
In late 2020, Suzuki unveiled the world’s first micro-plastics collecting system for outboard motors. The device installs under the cowling of various Suzuki outboard models and works by filtering water after it has passed through the engine’s cooling system.
On top of changing designs of outboard motors, Suzuki has placed a large emphasis on finding alternatives in shipping materials to not only safely get their products to the right places, but also maximize the materials recyclability. From moving away from plastic and implementing cardboard, to using bamboo straps rather than traditional plastics and much more, Suzuki Marine is looking at all aspects of the manufacturing process to increase sustainability.
“Everything really stems from the creation of Suzuki’s Clean Ocean Project over 10 years ago,” Suzuki Marine executive vice president George “Gus” Blakely told Boating Industry. “We saw the growing need to take a step back and look at how we can help preserve the places we enjoy our products, so we did that and have been looking for ways to improve ever since.”
It takes a village
While individual efforts from manufacturers to change processes certainly help in the realm of sustainability, it’s going to take the entire industry – and others outside our industry -- banding together to make the consistent changes across the globe.
Companies across the marine industry and taking notice and creating partnerships with organizations all over the globe for new sustainability and conservation efforts.
“Our planet’s natural resources are limited. As an industry, we have the obligation of creating the future of boating – responsibly – by protecting and promoting a healthy marine environment,” Volvo Penta vice president of marine sales Jens Bering said. “Coming together and collaborating will amplify our sustainability efforts to mitigate the impact we have on the health of the oceans. Embracing this mindset allows providing customers with state-of-the-art technology and moving toward a sustainable future to go hand-in-hand. We can’t forget the importance of education as well, starting with our own organization and business partners.”
By Jamie Stafford
Aside from manufacturers, retailers are an important pillar of the boating industry. Naturally, they contribute greatly to the industry’s future. More and more, dealers and marinas alike have embraced the vision of a sustainable future, supported in no small part by organizations such as the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) and the Association of Marina Industries (AMI). Boating Industry spoke to these two influential voices within the dealer/marina sphere to see where sustainability is headed and what businesses are doing today for a greener tomorrow.
The MRAA is an organization dedicated to the growth of the industry, comprised of boat and engine dealers, accessory retailers, marinas and marine service shops. “Being a national member-based trade association who supports recreational boat retailers,” says Chad Tokowicz, MRAA Government Relations manager, “we understand that conservation and proper natural resource management is crucial for a healthy boating environment. This direct tie influences how we engage in our government relations and advocacy efforts, pushing us to put a large focus on advocating for conservation policy.”
The MRAA works closely with government agencies and other trade associations such as the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), the Center for Sportfishing Policy (CSP) and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to advocate for conservation policy at the federal level.
“Through our engagement with these organizations,” Tokowicz continues, “the MRAA stays engaged in the most pressing conservation topics, ranging from providing input on proposed National Marine Sanctuary Designations to supporting historic conservation wins like the Great Americas Outdoors Act, or more recently helping reauthorize the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.”
While this important work is going on, the MRAA continues to support dealerships and other retailers in conservation and sustainability efforts. “The MRAA provides our members the opportunities to engage in advocacy around important conservation legislation as well as provide input when we need to push back against negative policies. For example, we are currently doing sign-on letters in support of the Proposed Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary, having individual businesses in New York state sign-on in support,” explains Tokowicz.
Along with the MRAA, industry retailers can look to AMI for guidance and support. The Association of Marina Industries (AMI) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the boating industry. AMI is responsible for the AMI Training Institute, which includes the Certified Marina Manager (CMM) and Certified Marina Operator (CMO) programs, as well as the annual AMI Conference and Expo.
In terms of conservation and sustainability, AMI has also been quite busy. “In 2021, AMI launched a Clean and Resilient Marina Training and Verification Pilot Program,” says Eric Kretsch, AMI’s legislative coordinator. “We hired a Clean and Resilient Marina program development manager and spent a year developing a Clean and Resilient Marina Training Course, that includes a full two and a half-day curriculum and professional certification. Then, in March, this year, we held our first training course with ten marina professionals, to this date we have held three trainings and trained 35 marina managers. Our goal is to train 40 professionals in 2022, we expect to hit 70. Our goal is to have those 70 marina managers certify and AMI to verify 20 marinas as clean marinas by the end of this year.”
“We are also offering the Clean and Resilient Marina Training Course,” continues Kretsch. “After completing the course attendees receive a professional certification through AMI. This certification allows them to use AMI’s Clean and Resilient Marina Verification system. This system is a self-certify system that AMI verified through an online application. AMI is also increasing the number of free (to AMI Member) webinars focusing on clean marina topics. So far this year, we have discussed invasive species, clean marina design, and how to become a clean marina.”
Both organizations have seen positive and hopeful results in regard to their efforts. “Right off the bat, when AMI announced the development of the new program, we saw an uptick in interest in the industry,” says Kretsch. “Immediately the larger marina companies, Safe Harbor Marinas, Suntex Marinas, MarineMax hopped on board in support. To this point they have supported AMI’s program both through sponsorships and by sending their employees to the first three classes we held. We also have seen interest in states that do not have existing clean marina certification programs. We’ve partnered so far with Mass Marine Trades Association and Midwest Marina Association to hold trainings in Massachusetts and Minnesota.”
Meanwhile, the MRAA has gained ground in the legislative arena. “Our work and engagement with the organizations has resulted in a variety of legislative and regulatory wins, ranging from reauthorizing the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund to most recently reauthorizing the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation. Furthermore, through working with these organizations we can elevate the voices of our members and highlight to lawmakers why these large-scale, high-level, policies are important for small businesses,” Tokowicz says.
With wins comes losses; however, and there have been plenty of challenges along the way. The MRAA is engaged in state level policy as well as federal and has recently worked with a coalition in Minnesota to push a mandatory boater education bill. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t pass. “Despite this loss,” says Tokowicz, “we are still committed to access and education at a state level and continue to work closely with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Water Sports Industry Association, and our members.”
As for AMI, “Our biggest challenge has been changing the way the industry traditionally thinks of “clean marina programs”. Clean marina programs have, until now, focused on certifying the place rather than the employee, manager, owner. AMI’s program starts with the person that overlooks the marina. We want to make sure they are one, committed to conservation and sustainable practices at their facility and two, knowledgeable of the best management practices that can be implemented at their facility. After we’ve worked with the people and certified their commitment and ability we focus on facilities. This approach, especially the off-site verification of facilities, has received a lot of concern, but we feel that AMI has put into place a system that is rigorous.”
So where does all this leave the industry? And what part do marine retailers play in creating a better, more sustainable future? According to Tokowicz – “Everyone has a role to play in conservation! Just by going out fishing, boating, or hunting, you can do your part in conservation. In the U.S., we are very lucky to have a unique conservation system that allows folks to support State and Federal agencies that do this work by simply purchasing a fishing or hunting license or a fishing rod or buying fuel for your boat.”
Tokowicz is right –conservation efforts are directly supported by participating in outdoor recreation. Government agencies like the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife manage the funds collected from taxes on things like boat fuel and fishing equipment. Other trade organizations such as the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) have a hand in conservation efforts by advocating for sport fishing and outdoor recreation. To read more about the DFW and RBFF, flip to page 30.
Conservation and sustainability will always remain a continuous effort, albeit a necessary one. “Often, we think of conservation work as something that is implemented one time, for example, changing a lightbulb from incandescent to LED, but it is just as important to think about behavior and repeated actions. A business is only as conservation/environment friendly as the people who make up that business,” reminds Kretsch.