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Participants

Sonu Shivdasani

Founder and CEO, Soneva

Sonu Shivdasani was born and studied largely in England. He is an alumni of Eton College, Le Rosey in Switzerland, and a graduate of Oxford University, where he received an MA in English Literature. Whilst the role of CEO and Chairman of Soneva keeps him quite busy, he still finds time to enjoy reading, art, architecture, wine, travelling and wellness.

Sonu and his wife Eva opened their first property, Soneva Fushi, in the Maldives in 1995, creating a high end market in what was formerly a mass market destination. Soneva Fushi pioneered the trend of luxury holidays in the Maldives, especially back-to-nature luxury holidays. Sonu and Eva also started Evason group of hotels and Six Senses Resorts and Spas across South East Asia and Europe. In 2012, Sonu and Eva sold the two companies to focus on Soneva-owned resorts with private residences  as part of the “One Owner, One Operator, One Philosophy, One Brand” strategy.

Soneva continues to lead the industry in sustainable luxury. Soneva resorts have both won numerous awards, including the Conde Nast Traveller’s ‘Best of the Best’ award for Soneva Fushi. Each Soneva resort uses only natural and sustainable building materials. Plastic is banned and as much produce as possible is grown or caught locally to reduce carbon footprint and support the local economy. Sonu and Eva’s concept, Intelligent Luxury, was the forerunner and inspiration for a host of imitators who saw the potential in going green.

The Shivdasanis also established the Soneva Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation committed to supporting the development and operation of projects and campaigns that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact. One of these is Whole World Water, an initiative encouraging the hospitality and restaurant industry to only serve water produced onsite (rather than imported bottled water), and invest the savings in clean water projects around the world. The Foundation has also raised millions of dollars from Soneva’s environmental levy, which has been used to fund forest restoration programmes planting around half a million of trees in northern Thailand, a windmill in South India, and heavily subsidized cooking stoves in Myanmar and Darfur. These stoves have benefitted around 180,000 people so far, and are extremely efficient, preventing the need for excess trees to be felled, reducing indoor toxic emissions, and saving families large expenses from buying firewood.

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