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Homelessness, Med pollution among focuses of new Costa Foundation

Anne Kalosh
Michael Thamm - 'We feel a responsibility for the environments in which we work'
The Costa Crociere Foundation has been established to improve the social and environmental conditions in the communities where Costa operates by sharing access to the company's and its partners' resources. Two initial programs involve homelessness in Genoa and pollution in the Mediterranean Sea.

'We feel a responsibility for the environments in which we work,' explained Costa ceo Michael Thamm. 'As a strong company we have the duty and the opportunity to support the seas and the Italian communities.' He added that a healthy business environment is in Costa's interest, especially regarding its home country and one of its most important markets, Italy.

The independently run foundation will take a holistic approach involving its internal and external stakeholders such as Costa employees, business partners and passengers.

It will include long-time and ongoing initiatives already supported by Costa and will fund new projects, starting locally in Genoa, the cruise line's home, by mobilizing and encouraging philanthropic engagement among the partners as well as volunteerism among employees.

One of the pilot projects will address Genoa's homelessness, which is drastically increasing due to Italy's economic downturn. Costa cited statistics that more than 50,000 people have dropped below the poverty line and are sleeping on the street.

This project will provide a permanent roof in a safe structure for 10 to 15 people and supply the basic necessities by addressing food security, the opportunity for social interaction and other services such as assistance for the elderly. Professionals and trained volunteers will provide counseling and social assistance and customized educational, medical and legal support with the goal of helping people reintegrate into society. Raising awareness about the homeless issue is another aim.

Moreover, work with Comunità di Sant’Egidio, an ongoing project to distribute meals to disadvantaged people Genoa, is another example of the activities the foundation will address as a first step.

On the environmental front, the main objective will be reducing marine pollution in the Mediterranean by working with local communities and encouraging people and businesses to reuse rather than throw away. Through education and awareness-raising, the foundation aims to help consumers and partners understand the impact of plastic waste by adopting the 'Five-R Approach'—reduce, reuse, recycle,redesign, recover—to curtail plastic waste in the Mediterranean.

The Costa Crociere Foundation will be independent but supported by the cruise line as the founder. It will be governed by a board of eight directors assisted by a few staff members who, together, select projects related to the two main programs. Fundraising activities will focus on in-kind donations from major business partners, the organization of events for passengers and the public, and sales of branded products on board ships.

The foundation will mainly sponsor charitable projects conducted by non-profit organizations, according to chairman Thatcher Brown. It also will initiate projects and look for opportunities to use the synergies between Costa's business operations and the foundation's activities. For example, it may use the company's purchasing power to buy goods for the beneficiaries of the programs at a lower price, involve media contacts to spread the message about social and environmental problems to the public, and engage passengers in fundraising activities.