Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a top priority for businesses over the last 30 years, as there is now more awareness around the impact that operating a business has on the environment and other important social issues.
As some consumers also now make decisions based on their values and the reputation of a business, organisations that are well known for being socially responsible and ethical can use that reputation as a competitive advantage. The theory is that if two similar companies are offering the same service at a similar cost, the consumer will usually choose the one that shows they are more committed to social responsibility.
The aviation industry is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions (contributing 3% of global emissions), so these companies are under even further scrutiny regarding how they operate. Fuel emissions and noise pollution from aircraft both have a considerable impact on the environment and companies who can demonstrate actions to improve fuel efficiency and reduce air pollution can boost their corporate image.
The European Commission defines CSR as the voluntary combination of corporate, social and environmental concerns in the business processes and the interaction of these with stakeholders.
As well as potentially giving organisations a competitive advantage in their industry, social responsibility plays a huge part in reducing carbon emissions and meeting government carbon net-zero targets.
The area that most airlines concentrate on in regard to CSR is reducing carbon emissions, given that the airline industry’s fuel consumption is so large. 23% of carbon dioxide emitted into the environment is from the transportation industry and apart from the travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the levels of carbon emissions have been increasing.
Airlines have invested in improving fuel efficiency but not just because it is socially responsible, fuel is a significant cost for airlines, so improving fuel efficiency can help airlines to make more profits. The bonus is that they can use their environmental reports and statistics to provide evidence that they are contributing less to the industry’s emissions compared to other companies.
Fuel efficiency can be improved by reducing the weight being carried and ensuring the least amount of fuel is used by improved flight route planning.
In addition to improving fuel efficiency, other environmental impacts such as good waste management processes form part of the CSR activities that airline industries can implement. Ensuring that there is minimal food waste, reducing packaging and only using recyclable packaging are some methods used to reduce carbon emissions
Health and well-being of employees
The approach that airline companies take towards looking after their employees is another element of CSR. If an example of poor treatment of employees is publicised, this can have a detrimental impact on the company’s image. Having employee well-being policies, supporting employees’ mental health and other well-being factors contribute to the perception of how airlines look after their employees. Fair pay and employment benefits are also considered important for CSR value.
Welfare of society
The aviation industry is predominantly used for tourism but it is also essential for humanitarian aid and providing access to remote areas of the world. Many airlines raise considerable money for charities to benefit society.
Taking a holiday abroad is considered important to many people’s well-being, giving them the chance to recharge their batteries and see a different part of the world. There are many other examples of the positive impact that airlines have on the welfare of society and raising awareness of these activities can help to improve the company’s image and show a commitment to CSR.