Another premier for TIACA: The launch of the Sustainability4Cargo webinar series on 08JUL20, with the provocative title of “Can we still afford to care about
sustainability?”. The first of a series that will likely continue on a monthly basis come SEP20, featuring the key creator of TIACA’s Sustainability Program: Celine Hourcade.
“The title: ‘Can we still afford to care about sustainability?’ can be seen as a controversial question, but is also a real question these days,” Celine begins, pointing out that whilst
most companies want to do what is right and good with regard to sustainability, the current crisis has thrown up a number of struggles. The focus now is on survival mode, budgets are tight, and
resources limited, so whether companies can “still care” is a very relevant question. Air cargo is an enabler to world trade – though only 1% of global volume is transported by air, this
accounts for 35% of global trade value – and the importance of air cargo has been clearly demonstrated by its performance during by the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, with the fragile economic situation,
Celine, citing an older UN publication, urged that yes, we need to look at “today, but not at the expense of tomorrow!”
Breaking the webinar title down…
Who is meant by “we” in the question? Answer: “The global air cargo community” as an industry and each company within this community. Celine illustrated how very diverse and
broad the air cargo community is, since it ranges from shippers to forwarders, cool chain players, cargo terminal operators, IT providers, security providers, ULD providers, airline/engine/ULD
manufacturers, ground handlers, airports, airlines, and to new entrants such as drone operators. The “we” also includes TIACA and all the industry associations and organizations surrounding air
cargo, from airline representatives to airports, verticals, logistics, and other interest groups – often also specific to certain regions. With such a large number of very varied stakeholders,
this leads to challenges when it comes to change and transformation.
At the end of the day, talking about who is responsible for improving sustainability in air cargo, is a lot more complex than simply the stereotypical image of an airline jet in the sky with
“It’s not being super-green that matters!”
What does sustainability mean? “If sustainability has a color, then it is green!”, Celine pointed out and went on to show an almost neon green lawn pitted against a more natural colored
one. When it comes to environmental impact, “It’s about being real green. How far are we ready to make things green?”, she said, and underlined that “It’s not about
‘green-washing’!” Sustainability activities should not be a necessary evil to simply tick boxes to fulfill system requirements with superficial measures. The topic should be a priority out
of principle. Celine emphasized that sustainability goes far further than simply an environmental impact, and cited the 17 UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) – each with its own defining
color and each with a number of targets that companies can and should be working on achieving by 2030 – which is no longer that far away. The topic is urgent. People, planet, and prosperity need
to be considered together. As an industry, air cargo is a means to allowing people access to jobs, markets, goods, social interaction, medical care, and education, and thus it is a key
contributor to supporting growth.
“What is the return on investment (ROI)?”
One participant wanted to know about the ROI on investing in sustainable measures. I was reminded of a cartoon where two managers discuss training staff: “What if we train them and they leave?”,
and the other answers “What if we don’t, and they stay?” The ROI question, when it comes to sustainability, should be from the angle of “What negative impacts will we have if we
don’t invest?” More and more companies are making sustainability measures a part of their tender. Given rising public awareness and pressure, companies not including sustainability in their
company strategy, risk losing business to more future-oriented competitors.
Celine’s message was clear: whilst not all 17 SDGs are necessarily relevant for each and every company, they should be taken as a basis. The air cargo industry needs to analyze each goal and see
what its impact is on that goal – whether positive or negative. “How can you contribute to making the world more sustainable – as a company and as an individual? How can you change your
priorities as a company and embed sustainable goals in your framework?”, Celine asked, pointing out that common sense, feedback from employees and customers, public perceptions, and partner
activities are all input levers. It is important to listen to what is going on and to embed sustainability actions not in a separate sustainability strategy, but directly within the company’s
overall strategy. Sustainability should become a part of company DNA.
TIACA’s Sustainability moves
TIACA’s Sustainability Program, born of Steven Polman’s and Sanjeev Gadhia’s desire as new Chair and Vice Chair last summer, to “put sustainability, diversity and inclusion on the list of
priorities for TIACA”, following “a call from the membership of TIACA to do things differently and get ready for the future”, marked the “the beginning of TIACA’s overall
transformation”. TIACA recognized the expectations of industry, members, partners, and customers, to follow and support new trends, and its Sustainability Program, which also suffered a
brief setback with the onset of the Corona crisis in MAR20, is now back on the action list. Just last week, TIACA published its new vision, which embeds sustainability principles: “A safe,
profitable, and united air cargo industry, that embraces modern technologies and practices to sustainably and fairly serve trade and social development worldwide.” Sustainability is also
reflected in its mission statements, which Celine presented, along with the reasons why TIACA cares about the topic, and she also drew attention to the 15SEP20 application deadline for TIACA’s
second Sustainability Awards (CFG reported).
How green is your company? What Best Demonstrated Practices would you like to share?
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