PADI : Igniting Ocean Torchbearers

Ed Budds
Ed Budds - Editor

PADI is committed to protecting the oceans, fueled by creating innovative partnerships, re-envisioning the way people travel, and encouraging daily changes for a better and healthier ocean planet. We dive in and find out more with CEO and President, Dr. Drew Richardson.

IGNITING OCEAN TORCHBEARERS

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) is a recreational diving membership and diver training organization founded in 1966 by John Cronin and Ralph Erickson. 

PADI, whose corporate headquarters is located in California, is the world’s largest purpose-driven scuba diving organization with a global membership of 6,600 dive centers and 128,000 professionals operating in 180 countries and territories, along with over 30 million certified divers trained across the planet. 

“Pivoting on our 50th anniversary as a global organization in 2016, PADI doubled down on its dedication to exploring and saving our blue planet and making the wonder of the underwater world accessible to all – empowering people to experience, explore, and take meaningful action as ocean torchbearers to protect our planet beneath the surface. Our ‘Seek Adventure, Save the Ocean’ slogan encapsulates the soul of the organization,” introduces Dr. Drew Richardson, CEO and President. 

“For over half a century, we have been the way the world learns to dive, setting the standard for the highest quality training, underwater safety, and conservation initiatives while also continuing to evolve the sport of scuba diving into a passionate lifestyle,” he sets out.  

Positioning itself as for divers, by divers, the company is obsessed with transforming lives and, with its global foundation, PADI Aware, creating positive ocean change through meaningful diver citizen science work. 

A TRUE FORCE FOR GOOD

The PADI cultural diaspora is, by definition, a juggernaut – the company is a true force for good.   

Consequently, in the mind of PADI, no constructive personal action is insignificant, and the entire organization is therefore empowered to make a difference by taking meaningful action.   

“We’ve collectively established innovative programs that are fueled by individual actions, like snorkeling or scuba diving with a PADI Eco Center or taking part in our Dive Against Debris program that can scale into measurable and positive ocean change,” Richardson confirms. 

PADI is innovating new ways to set into motion a movement by divers and water enthusiasts to restore and protect the ocean, both locally and globally. 

“The future of our shared blue planet has never been more dependent on our innovation, our decisions, and our actions to prioritize ocean life support, as humanity and the ocean are both vulnerable and co-dependent,” he explains. 

Thanks to the collection of innovative PADI programs that create more superheroes for the planet, the company has collectively protected over 100 endangered species of sharks and rays, now listed on the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) collection of wild fauna and flora. 

Alongside this, PADI has successfully established the largest underwater marine debris citizen science database through the Dive Against Debris program, which has enlisted divers to remove and report over 2.3 million pieces of plastic from the ocean. 

Additionally, to date, PADI has released more than 37,000 entangled animals from human-induced marine debris to live and perhaps reproduce their species. 

“The honor of being named on Fast Company’s 2024 Most Innovative Companies list further proves that we all must be innovators to accomplish our shared goal of restoring ourselves, our relationship with each other, and this blue planet we all call home.”

“The future of our shared blue planet has never been more dependent on our innovation, our decisions, and our actions to prioritize ocean life support, as humanity and the ocean are both vulnerable and co-dependent”

Dr. Drew Richardson, CEO and President, PADI

POSITIVE OCEAN CHANGE

PADI’s global network of 6,600 dive centers and resorts, referred to as mission hubs, continue to exist as the backbone for driving the organization’s innovative programs to create positive ocean change, enabling its people to engage in underwater citizen science, participate in conservation events, and advocate for local policy changes, all led locally by PADI members.  

These mission hubs host volunteer conservation events, train confident and comfortable purpose-driven divers, participate in global campaigns like Dive Against Debris, lobby and advocate for local governments, and spearhead conservation initiatives. 

“A powerful example is how, over the last three years, our mission hubs have helped secure protection for vulnerable shark and ray species. In 2021, they helped secure protection for mako sharks at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT),” Richardson divulges.  

Elsewhere, in 2022, PADI helped secure protection for requiem sharks, a group which includes 54 CITES shark and ray species.  

These achievements were both accomplished by actively mobilizing PADI’s mission hubs, urging local governments to take action, and asking scuba diving communities to sign petitions. 

“Another example is how our Dive Against Debris program has been continually mobilized by our mission hubs and scuba divers alike, who log critical data in the world’s largest marine debris database,” he adds. 

It was this data, collected in 2018, that largely influenced Vanuatu’s ban of plastic bags. As a result of this, a community-driven microeconomy emerged and Vanuatuan people created bags using banana and palm leaves.  

“Due to the success of the policy decision, Vanuatu has become a champion country promoting international cooperation to tackle marine debris. This is living proof of how PADI’s innovative programs drive local action that can truly have a global impact.” 

Photography © Jay Clue / PADI

INTEGRITY AND SUSTAINABILITY

For PADI’s 30 million scuba divers worldwide, one of the most important things when diving is knowing they are making sustainable and responsible decisions.  

In 2022, PADI supported a Green Fins study that identified divers wanted to make an impact with their travel, with 75 percent of respondents willing to pay more for regenerative stays and experiences.  

However, 85 percent of respondents also indicated it was difficult to find validated sustainable operators they could trust. 

“To support the growing demand for regenerative diving and assist our global membership in taking constructive local action to protect their surrounding natural ecosystems, we launched the PADI Eco Center credentials on Earth Day 2023 to make dive tourism a force for good and allow consumers to confidently put their money towards sustainable and regenerative businesses,” Richardson recalls.  

To honor and uphold the integrity of this credential program, PADI uses the United Nations (UN) Environment Program and the Reef-World Foundation’s Green Fins initiative to run the accreditation assessment and help elevate the planet’s most environmentally committed dive operators. 

“We now have over 100 PADI Eco Centers accredited in 32 countries within the first year of the program and are working to have over 10 percent of our membership base accredited by 2030. The growing popularity and success of this program also led to PADI Eco Centers recently being named the number two ranked travel trend for 2024 by Conde Nast Traveller,” he enthuses. 

Furthermore, PADI Eco Centers make it easier for travellers to choose to dive in protected marine areas, participate in citizen science initiatives, including education and volunteering on dive trips, and ensure their holiday really does give back to the local community they are exploring. 

“Choosing to seek adventure, explore, and steward the health of the ocean is our inspiring love story, and one which we all have the choice to share. We dive because we love the watery environment, and we have found that diving generously gives back more than it takes,” Richardson concludes proudly.

Photography © Jay Clue / PADI
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