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Sustaining Abundance in Príncipe

We spoke with Emma Tuzinkiewicz from HBD Group and their mission to make Sao Tome & Principe the top sustainable holiday destination in West Africa.



Africa Specialist
Published on

27 Sept 2021

Updated on

30 Sept 2021

Sustaining Principe

At Far and Wild we love sharing good news stories and championing sustainability. So when we spoke with Emma Tuzinkiewicz from HBD Group who have properties on São Tomé & Príncipe Islands off the west coast of Africa, we knew we had to ask her to share their story.

Emma Tuzinkiewicz

Emma Tuzinkiewicz is HBD Príncipe’s first Sustainability Director and Chief of Staff. Now based in Príncipe, she is a nature enthusiast and is enjoying hiking in her new home. Before this move, Emma spent nearly a decade living in New York City; she worked at global investment firm KKR on its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) team and attended Columbia University where she studied sustainable development and Spanish.

Sustainability in the tropics

The entrancing expanse of a verdant, textured tree canopy. Alluring large, dark rocks blanketed by the aquamarine and teal sea. Enchanting golden slivers of bright sand rimmed with foamy waves. This is Príncipe from the sky. These sights puncture the calming blue hues of the Gulf of Guinea and welcome you to this rainforest island. For anyone – and especially for us lovers of nature – arriving in Príncipe by plane is nothing short of mesmerizing.

From your first step off the plane and into this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, you are greeted by the vibrancy of the communities who live here. The rich and varied cultures meet the lush and bountiful natural environment and is where HBD Príncipe (HBD), a sustainable ecotourism and agroforestry company, calls home.

Stp From Air

The vision, mission, and sustainability ethos

In and among the trees and communities, HBD seeks to achieve our vision: the sustainable social and economic development in Príncipe and conservation of the island’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Since our founding in 2010, we have maintained a commitment to a collaborative approach to achieving the sustainable development of this island.

Crucially, how we work towards achieving it is essential to the vision itself. We are guided by the Québec Declaration on Ecotourism and “…conceive, develop and conduct [our] business minimizing negative effects on, and positively contributing to, the conservation of sensitive ecosystems and the environment in general, and directly benefitting and including local and indigenous communities.” Managing our company in this way is smart business and will aid in our goal of becoming financially sustainable.

While I am the new Sustainability Director and Chief of Staff for HBD Príncipe, we are a team of 430 sustainability change agents. It is our goal that each teammate considers the direct impact and ramifications that our actions and decisions have on our vision, our operations, and the Biosphere – today and in the future. One thing we know for certain: this work takes time. While the HBD team is hard at work and making progress, we still have more to do to achieve our goals – working with local communities, government, other companies, non-profit organisations and additional committed partners along the way.

To bring this strategy to life, I am keen to share a few examples of how we infuse our vision into our operations – with a particular emphasis on the sustainable tourism side of our business in celebration of the reopening of two of our lodges, Roça Sundy and Sundy Praia, on the 1st of October.

Hotel Roca Sundy 1000 560 3541 1513284072
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Sundy Praia

Teamwork makes the sustainable dream work

First, let’s talk about our team. As the largest employer on Príncipe Island, we provide a range of career opportunities and emphasize the empowerment of HBD team members. Since our pre-reopening training began on the 1st of July, we have provided approximately 4000 hours of training, which included various sessions for our waiters and chefs, receptionists and housekeepers, and experiences team guides and sailors, among others. Training remains a top priority and is ongoing.

Across our lodges, guests engage directly with some of our sustainability initiatives while others hum along in the background, important but perhaps unnoticed. Some of these less visible manifestations of our focus on sustainability include a desire for our construction projects to have a minimal impact on the environment; the specialized footing for the tented villas at Sundy Praia is one example. We are evaluating the use of our fleet and investigating the viability of solar power to reduce HBD’s consumption of diesel. To address the complex and global problem of waste management, HBD has a team focused on sorting and upcycling recyclables. We also lead community clean-ups with an emphasis on teaching kids about avoiding litter to protect their environment and health.

Cocoa 0350
cocoa industry - Sao Tome and Principe

The colorful, fresh spread of fruit at breakfast and locally caught fish at dinner highlights one of the most noticeable sustainability initiatives: a high percentage of the food we serve is hyper-local. Proudly, a selection of fruits, vegetables, and herbs is grown organically and picked by our HBD horticulture team for chefs to incorporate into daily meals. And, we cannot forget the Paciência organic chocolate, which we make using cacao that grows in our birdsong-filled agroforestry plantation.

Actively sustainable and sustainable activities

Our reinvigorated guided experiences enable guests staying with HBD to explore Príncipe through authentic and connected natural and cultural discoveries. As part of this enhanced strategy, we evaluated our diverse range of activities and decided that we will no longer be offering catch-and-release, deep sea, or sport fishing in alignment with our commitment to the conservation of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which includes the ocean. Instead, we now offer a guided boat trip that includes visiting a seaside fishing community to buy freshly caught fish, contributing to the local economy. From participating in this experience to identifying bird species on trails to meeting the cooperative of women transforming glass bottles into jewellery to witnessing nesting sea turtles with our non-profit partner Fundação Príncipe, guests will uncover this island’s depth and learn its aspirations.

Community Clean Up Principe

Guests can be assured that while they discover the land, sea, and culture, HBD is committed to protecting these things in return. We know that what makes the island special – from clean air and clear skies to the high number of endemic species to ingenious and creative people – is what sustains our business, too. Príncipe’s nature and communities make it different; and we have a differentiated commitment to protecting them. As guests explore the island’s beaches and forests, admire flora and fauna, and enjoy local food and drinks, guests are also contributing to the journey of sustainable development.

Príncipe is a place of abundance – of roaring rainfall, towering trees, chuckling children, energizing explorations, and more. There, too, is an abundance of opportunity: to learn; to engage; to grow; to collaborate; and to contribute. I for one marvel at these opportunities and feel an abundance of gratitude for this place and the people.

With an abundance of joyful anticipation, we look forward to welcoming you to Príncipe: a small rainforest island that dreams big.

Principe Culture
Culture is alive on the islands
Príncipe Vista
Baby Turtle Principe
Baby Turtle

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