British Airways: Corporate Social Responsibility

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Introduction

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to “the responsibility organizations take for impacts of their activities on society and the environment” (Cowper-Smith and Grosbois, 2011). Today, most organizations have incorporated CSR into their business models. It is a form of self-regulation among companies. Companies use CSR to build their brands and reputations. CSR activities reflect organizational cultures and values. Organizations consider CSR as both profitability and sustainability approach for the future (Brammer, Millington and Rayton, 2007).

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This research shall focus on British Airways (BA) CSR activities in United Arabs Emirate (UAE).

CSR in the Airline Industry

The issue of CSR has gained momentum in various industries ever since its adoption in 1960s. Since then, academicians have taken interests to understand how various organizations in different industries practice their CSR. A recent study focused on the airline industry and identified key CSR practices within the industry. Cowper-Smith and Grosbois show that the airline industry has a stronger focus on environmental sustainability than in economic or social issues of CSR (Cowper-Smith and Grosbois, 2011). The study focused on seven areas and established that the airline industry concentrated on issues of emission reduction than any other matter of environmental concern. In general, the airline industry has four core themes for its CSR programs, and they include, “employee well-being and engagement, diversity and social equity, community well-being and economic prosperity” (Cowper-Smith and Grosbois, 2011).

This study also found out that various airline companies have different methods of carrying out and measuring their CSR programs. Most airline companies provide their CSR programs and their impacts in their annual reports. However, they provide scanty details on actual or specific outcomes because of such initiatives.

The Company

The BA consists of many subsidiaries and the BA Plc. The company is among the largest in the airline industry. It serves more than 400 destinations with a fleet size of 249 planes excluding subsidiaries. It is also a member of the Global Oneworld Alliance. Therefore, it is among the airline companies responsible for most airline activities and impacts across the world.

In 2011, the airline carried 34 million passengers to various destinations around the globe. The airline also delivered 785,000 tons of cargo to various destinations in the world in the same year (British Airways, 2012).

BA strives to provide services to passengers who care how they fly. The BA has realized the need to work with other stakeholders in order to realize its core mission. Consequently, this approach has influenced the BA’s CSR practices. It has also recognized the social and economic advantages from its operation as well as its effects on society and the environment.

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There are many reasons for the BA to engage in CSR. First, CSR shall enable the company to achieve its strategic growth strategy around the globe. CSR also enables the company to reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary wastes, enhance efficiency, and reduce energy consumption. Second, CSR also helps the company to mitigate potential risks, maintain employees’ well-being, and attract potential investors for business growth. Finally, CSR is a way of corporate promotion and publicity for the company. It creates good reputation for the company.

The BA CSR Policy

BA’s CSR agenda focuses on customers’ concerns. The company expresses its concern for the environment, local communities, and health of its passenger. As a result, it has developed a CSR program known as One Destination for addressing the above concerns (British Airways, 2012). One Destination CSR program focuses on several issues.

According to the BA CEO, Keith Williams, CSR has a significant role to play on a long-term sustainability of the company. He notes that BA has achieved remarkable results in fuel efficiency and biofuel programs.

BA focuses on environmental sustainability through a number of approaches like using biofuels, improving fuel efficiency, and reducing deforestation through Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD). The environmental strategy also includes minimizing effects on the climate, improving air quality, reducing aircraft noise, waste management, water consumption, and enhancing fuel or carbon efficiency. BA works with policymakers so that it can influence environmental policy formulation by providing the industry insights.

The BA community strategy covers the UK and other areas the company serves. This strategy mainly focuses on providing financial and humanitarian aid to communities. Education, supporting community projects, and conservation are the main initiatives under the community CSR program. BA has Flying Start charity program for raising funds from colleagues and customers for charity programs.

BA’s CSR program also covers social sustainability. The program encourages customers to contribute towards carbon fund. It also enables BA to manage the supply chain and focus on customers’ needs. One Destination also ensures employees’ welfare, graduate programs, diversity, and social inclusion. The company has extensive social programs to cover all areas of social activities.

Critique of the BA’s CSR Policy

One Destination program has a holistic approach to ensure sustainability in countries where BA serves. The company has recognized customers’ concerns about its operation on the environment, local communities, and health of its passengers. Consequently, the company responded by creating One Destination program. The company based its One Destination program on the principle of sustainable growth. The BA program reveals three important aspects of CSR.

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First, BA has recognized impacts of its activities on society and the environment. It has also noted that such impacts affect its ability to pursue business successfully.

Second, BA has realized the importance of actively managing social, environmental, and economic issues of its operation in all countries it serves. These are the international benchmarks for CSR, and it can only reap their benefits through practicing them.

Third, BA has appreciated the need to work with all stakeholders when developing effective CSR programs. For instance, it works with its customers, regulators, biofuel developers, local communities, and host governments of various countries.

However, this research shows that BA’s CSR program mainly concentrates on the issue of mitigating effects of climate change on the airline industry. In all, BA has one of the best approaches to CSR.

Reflection

Clearly, CSR has a significant role to play on a long-term sustainability of various organizations in different industries. It enables organizations to account for their impacts on stakeholders and the environment.

BA has demonstrated that a balanced approach to CSR must focus on social, economic, and environmental issues. CSR initiatives must involve all stakeholders. It also needs innovative approaches, skills, and closer cooperation with social partners.

Organizations must also base their CSR activities on trust and foresight when dealing with customers, regulators, and communities. This requires a sustained approach too.

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CSR programs provide strong incentives to successful business operation on a long-term basis. This means that organizations must focus on both issues affecting their activities today and their effects in the future. CSR goes beyond addressing internal changes in the organization to include other external factors. Given the importance of CSR, organizations that fail to adopt it shall remain irrelevant in the future.

References

Brammer, S., Millington, A. and Rayton, B. (2007). The contribution of corporate social responsibility to organizational commitment. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(10), 1701–1719.

British Airways. (2012). Corporate Resposibility 2011/2012. London: BA.

Cowper-Smith, A. and Grosbois, D. (2011). The adoption of corporate social responsibility practices in the airline industry. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(1), 59-77.

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