Illustration by Suharu Ogawa

Luxury cruise company Royal Caribbean’s connection to public health might not be immediately apparent. “People don’t think of it as a health company, obviously,” says Professor John Quelch, coauthor (with research associate Emily Boudreau) of Building a Culture of Health: A New Imperative for Business. “But if you have a norovirus outbreak on a weeklong cruise with 5,000 people, and that vessel has to port and the cruise is canceled, that loss will cost Royal Caribbean a fourteenth of its annual profits.” Focusing on consumer health is one of four ways that Quelch says companies can affect public health, along with concentrating on the well-being of its employees, its community, and the environment. The principles can help the bottom line, too, offering improvements in reputation, retention, and revenues. Here are a few ways Royal Caribbean puts each into action.


Royal Caribbean created an eight-step Outbreak Prevention Plan to stop gastrointestinal illnesses, which includes screening guests and crew prior to boarding. “A cruise line cannot afford to shortchange cleanliness,” says Quelch.


The crew is offered medical checkups, and more than 90 percent of employees participate in yearly health fairs that provide free screenings and educational resources.


“All of their cruise ships have an internal water recycling system that minimizes discharge into the ocean,” says Quelch. New energy efficiency initiatives also saw their greenhouse gas footprint drop by 19 percent between 2005 and 2012.


“Royal Caribbean donates a lot of used furniture and household goods in the ports where they call,” says Quelch. “They’ll also buy goods and services in those port cities to put money back into the local economy.”


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