Aviation Industry Business Sustainability

by Jason Shaw

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Four Stages of Issue Maturity
  • The activist stage
  • The emerging stage
  • Consolidation stage
  • Institutionalization stage
  • Sustainable Value Framework
  • Frameworks Comments and conclusion
  • Four Stages of Issue Maturity
  • Sustainable Value Framework
  • References
  • Appendix: Hart & Milstein Sustainable Value Framework


Climate change and pollution are significant environmental challenges facing aviation industry today (UNEP 2009). Through commissioning research and development to learn more about aerodynamics and other aerospace materials and systems that can help reduce harmful environmental impacts, United Kingdom aerospace is reacting to environmental emissions. In addition, the airlines are implementing formal monitoring and reporting systems of noise and emissions as part of their commitment to mitigate noise and emission to the environment. Other projects involve the production of more environmentally sustainable aero-engines and efficient airframes. The aviation industry has already built methods of helping people and travellers grasp the idea of the usage of airlines as a consequence of climate change and emissions. Players in the aviation sector are taking steps to minimise the harmful environmental impacts generated by the aviation industry’s operations.

Aviation Industry Business Sustainability

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Four Stages of Issue Maturity

There are four stages of issue maturity. These are activist stage, emerging stage, consolidation stage and institutionalization stage.

  • The Activist Stage

The activist stage states why new social challenges created by corporations or organisations are new and very few citizens recognise the degree of which culture has its positive or negative sides. As a consequence, since they are not backed by proof or proofs, demonstrators are dismissed. The corporate world and influence generally neglect or reject proponents of the latest social problems. The supporters of civil justice are radicals (Zadek 2004). In the UK aviation sector, environmental issues have already arisen, according to the SA (2009) study, and mitigation steps have been agreed by the authorities, airlines and communities. Since a strong alliance was ongoing to cope with the environmental problems of the aviation sector, this stage was bypassed. Airlines, the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the British Air Travel Association (BAT), the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) and NATS are also members of the coalition (AS 2009).

  • The Emerging Stage

The emerging period is the second stage. This process recognises that the government and media community knows and understands the challenges of society. Research bodies are evolving to research the rising social problems created by aviation practises and processes in UK aviation. The second step has also been bypassed since in the United Kingdom, climate change, noise and air pollution have become common knowledge, especially among air operators. Analysis was also commissioned as monitoring and assessment mechanisms were established (SA 2009).

  • Consolidation Stage

The third stage is consolidation stage. At this stage, the business community and authority accept their responsibility of protecting the rights of other stakeholders and living things in the environment in which they operate. As a result, a body to guide business practices emerges. SA has been created to guide UK aviation industry respond to the challenging aviation societal issues. In this stage, the businesses start to voluntarily initiate and adopt industry and issue based programmes and processes that mitigate negative effects. Legislations begin to take form, standard operating standards are developed and affirmative actions begin to take root. This is the stage that aviation industry in the United Kingdom is at the present. Sustainable Aviation (SA) was launched in 2005. It is an association whose goal is to create a vision that manages the environmental challenges in the United Kingdom aviation industry. It is mandated to remove or minimise local and global negative environmental impacts while maximizing the contribution of aviation industry to the United Kingdom economy. Emergence of Sustainable Aviation signatories that comprise major airlines, manufacturers of aircrafts, airports, and air navigation providers enhance consolidation in the industry. The Sustainable Aviation identified and set eight goals and thirty-four commitments. Aviation stakeholders have adopted the goals and commitments. The commitment to report publicly and comprehensively progress made in achieving SA goals and commitments. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have fuel targets in place. They aim at improving per revenue tonne kilometer by 30% between 2007 and 2020 and 25% fuel efficiency per passenger kilometre by 2025. British Airways plans reduce net emissions by 50% by 2050. Individuals airlines are initiating own ways to mitigate the environmental challenges. Rolls-Royce has a five-year plan research worth £95 million. The programme main goal is to develop environment friendlier engines and airframes. In addition, 17 partners have come together and participated in £35 million Integrated Wing Advanced Technology Programme. Use of Continuous Descent Approaches (CDA) instead of Stepped Approach to landing and has help to reduce noise, fuel burn and emissions significantly.  Tools have been developed to allow detailed measurement and reporting of air quality. The clean Sky Joint Technology initiative (JTI) was launched on February 2008 in Brussels. It is a seven-year project aimed at integrating earlier researches. It aimed at innovating, designing, developing and validating technologies associated with landing and fuel usage.

  • Institutionalization Stage

The fourth and final step is institutionalization of the societal issues at hand. Legislation, industry standard operating standard and other business norms are fully established. The best business practices are integrated and practised at all levels in the organisation. This is the fourth stage of issue maturity. The United Kingdom’s aircraft sector is approaching the stage. The Formation of Sustainable Aviation (SA) forms precedence to development and integration of legislation and standard operating procedures in the aviation industry in the United Kingdom. The research conducted on avionics technology would create a platform of creating achievable and acceptable industry norms and benchmarks. The industry is setting up aerospace innovation networks that centers on aerospace dynamics, designs, advanced structures and materials. The airlines in the United Kingdom are agreeing on common metrics and standardised reporting procedures. Common metrics and reporting procedures captures amount of emissions and fuel consumed by airlines. Aerospace Technology Validation Programmes are implemented in the aviation industry. Voluntary Carbon Offset programme educate passengers about carbon impacts of air travels and ways to mitigate them has been launched as well. British Air transport Association and Airport Operators Association is promoting best practice in environmental management. The Continuous Descent Approach outreach programme has been completed and Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) is proactively setting targets to reduce fuel consumption by 50% and NOx emissions by 80% for all new aircrafts entering the industry. All the above initiatives and resulting norms would reduce consumption of fuel and materials as well as reduce air and noise pollution in the aviation industry. It is confirmed presently that stage four of issue development is being approached in the aviation industry.

Sustainable Value Framework

The sustainable value framework suggests that businesses should address all the quadrants in order to remain in operation for along time if not for eternity. This is because the value of businesses are affected negatively by wasteful use of resources, complains from the community if the business process or products hurt them. United Kingdom aviation stakeholders have taken responsibility and shown commitment to sustaining the aviation industry value. They have formed Sustainable Aviation (SA) Body. According to the SA (2009), the body is advocating and implementing industry good processes aimed at preserving and protecting the natural environment.

Sustainable value framework by Hart and Milstein (2003) is used to analyse aviation industry response to creating sustainable value. The framework has four quadrants. The concept of sustainable value of Hart and Milstein connect creation of business value to the global sustainability challenges. It takes into account sets of competing tensions. These set of competing tensions are today’s wants and needs verses tomorrow’s plans, and internal development verses external needs, wants and perceptions (Harts 2007). The quadrants are classified into four. They are today quadrant, tomorrow quadrant, internal quadrant and external quadrant.

Tomorrow -internal quadrant (A) explain that planning and implementing energy efficient facilities and technology will lead to lower cost and high quality products in future. The SA report stated Rolls-Royce has invested £95 million efficient engines and airframes that will reduce fuel consumption in the coming future. Most airlines in the UK are embracing sustainable fuel considered a replacement to oil based kerosene fuels. In addition, new aircrafts and good operational operations will bring fuel-efficient improvements in the industry.  Replacing old aircrafts with new ones like A380. A380 has lower noise levels in the very large aircraft category. The main drivers in this quadrant are disruptions, technology and foot print. Individual airlines in the United Kingdom aviation industry are investing individually.

Today quadrant-internal (B) explains the initiatives that are taken currently and benefits are realized now. The report confirmed that some airlines considering reducing consumption of fuel by 50%. Reduction of fuel consumption reduces the expenses incurred in purchasing it. The decrease in fuel usage is accomplished by effective engines that uses less fuel to travel longer distances. The United Kingdom aviation industry is advocating for 50% cut in aircraft fuel consumption. Virgin Atlantic plan to reduce energy consumption by 10% by 2012 and 20% by 2020. British Airways achieved 10% reduction in energy use in the year 2008 (SA 2009). The quadrant is driven by consumption and wastes. The strategy in this quadrant is prevention or minimization wastes and emissions from operations in the aviation industry.

Tomorrow -external quadrant (C) explains external issues that affect sustainability of future business. Aviation airlines are considering using cleaner vehicles and ground programmes to reduce carbon emission. Some airports and airlines have set own targets to become carbon neutral. This will ensure that the natural environment is preserved and nurtured for generations. The main drivers in the quadrant are the population, pollution, poverty and inequality. The initiatives and strategies to be applied include creation of a shared road map to meet unmet needs of the society. Aviation stakeholders came together under Carbon Management Group to respond to climate related challenges.

Today quadrant-external (D) explains external issues that must be handled currently for business to be sustainable. The drivers of this quadrant are the civil society, transparency and connectivity. The strategy is to integrate stakeholders’ values into business processes. SA is developing monitoring and reporting procedures that captures fuel consumptions and emissions to the environment. This ensures accurate monitoring and reporting of aviation industry issues. The information acquired will be used to make relevant decisions in the industry (Bennett et al1999).

Frameworks Comments and Conclusion

Four Stages of Issue Maturity

The four stage issue maturity state and explain critical steps that an issue has to go through from inception to maturity. This will help the managers and leaders of organizations understand the steps an idea take before it is fully institutionalise. Thus enable them plan for the changes, have patience and sober up when dealing with given issues that affect their businesses.

Sustainable Value Framework

The frame works helps to explain how the profitability of the company will be affected at present and in future if global sustainability issues are not addressed early.  It proposes that the organization should address all issues in the quadrant if it hopes to remain for along time in business. It provides the managers and leaders of organizations drivers that propel change and propose strategies that need to be undertaken to protect the value of the organization.

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 Hart & Milstein Sustainable Value Framework

Source:  S. Hart 2007 Creating sustainable value


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