Personal Action Plan to Deliver Sustainable Development Goals in the Aviation Sector

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This paper draws on set assessment exercises to create an action plan to improve CSR initiatives in the aviation industry. The action plan suggests possible strategies that airlines could implement to promote the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The action plan draws on personal experiences accrued in the airline industry regarding key operational challenges affecting the sector and academic literature borrowed from course materials that explain the importance of ethical business. At the center of these discussions is the need to embrace sustainability as a core principle guiding future process designs in the aviation sector.

Evidence will be provided to show how changing supply chain networks, promoting ethical leadership, and digitization can help airlines to align their goals with the aforementioned SDGs. The findings apply to airlines and employees working in the broader aviation industry. They are intended to better equip them with the tools needed to navigate the challenges of operating in an uncertain business environment.


The contemporary business environment is characterized by several problems, including climate change, resource depletion, and sustainability. Relative to these challenges, Blowfield (2013) notes that many new businesses are trying to solve some of these issues while existing ones are changing their business processes to comply with the changing business environment (Blowfield, 2013). Organizations in the aviation industry fall in the latter category because they are struggling to cope with new threats and challenges as they conform to an uncertain and volatile market that is influenced by changing consumer preferences, the rising cost of operations, increased travel restrictions, among other factors.

Despite the existence of these challenges, the aviation industry is one of the most important sectors of the global economy. It contributes about $691 billion in global Gross domestic product (GDP) annually, making it among the most impactful sectors of the world economy (ATAG, 2020). Being an employee in the sector, I have noted the challenges affecting the industry and acquired immense experience, as a basis to develop this action plan. It is intended to support the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 (no poverty), 12 (responsible production and consumption), 13 (climate action), 15 (Life on Land), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), and 17 (partnerships and collaboration). Therefore, strategies that will be proposed in the action plan are based on academic insight and professional experience.

SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Realizing SDG 16, which focuses on peace, justice and developing strong institutions is predicted on the implementation of good leadership practices. Part of the discussions surrounding the role of leadership in organizational development has been centered on the quest for ethical leadership. The concept of good business ethics emerges in this review as a model for assessing the effectiveness of leadership practices in fulfilling organizational goals (Des Jardins and McCall, 1996). Lashley (2016) describes ethical leadership as a framework for evaluating management effectiveness and sustainability practices in an organization. Related to this exercise, Lashley (2016) suggests a four-part model for evaluating leadership practices based on whether they are “good” or “bad” vs. “legal” or “illegal.”

The value-based evaluation approach has also been used as a basis for evaluating leadership practices. This framework is based on the works of Williams and Preston (2018) who emphasize the need for managers to reflect on their values and understand how they affect those of managers and other groups of employees. This approach is linked to the Schwartz value system, mentioned in the course materials, which suggests that leadership values affect the impact of CSR activities. The situational leadership theory, as described by Blowfield (2013), may be used as another basis for reviewing leadership practices because it uses variables in a business’s internal and external environments to determine which leadership style is best suited for an organization.

The type of leadership style adopted in an organization should align with its corporate culture to create a supportive environment for developing strong institutions. A company’s corporate culture refers to a set of rules, norms, values, and practices that often stem from the top leadership and permeate throughout all other groups of employees in an organization. Thus, the corporate culture of an organization could strengthen the foundation for whoever comes into leadership.

This statement is linked with the works of Hartman, DesJardins and MacDonald (2014), which suggests that corporate culture affects leadership quality through ethical decision-making. Furthermore, due to the emphasis on virtues as a desirable quality of ethical leadership, DesJardins and MacDonald (2014) adds that corporate culture provides a framework that organizations can adopt to improve their leadership practices. Benn and Dunphy (2007) who advocate for a compliance-based leadership model support their views. Nonetheless, the leadership framework to be adopted and accepted in an organization depends on its unique internal and external market dynamics.

Week Number 1 SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Specific Target being addressed Leaders
What we are doing now Our organization follows a set code of conduct to guide the conduct of all employees in the workplace. By doing so, the organization practices self-regulation, thereby minimizing the need for government agencies to influence the firm’s leadership. By embracing this practice, our organization is less inclined to pursue business plans that have short-term benefits but with long-term negative effects on the sustainability of the industry or the wellbeing of its workers and community.
What we could do Most ethical codes of conduct used in the aviation industry are outdated and fail to reflect current social and ethical changes affecting leadership. Consequently, there is a need to update these ethical codes of conduct to make them more responsive to contemporary leadership challenges.
This recommendation is borrowed from the works of Lashley (2016), which demonstrate that if updated codes of practices are infused into business agreements, the ethical quality of linked transactions will similarly increase. The same approach can be adopted in the aviation sector but new codes of conduct need to be first deliberated and established to enhance business associations among major stakeholders in the sector. Therefore, updating ethical codes of practice will help to set-up minimum and acceptable standards of operation for promoting ethical leadership in the sector, thereby allowing it t develop strong institutions, in line with the SDG 16 objectives.

SDG 15 Life on Land

SDG 15 is aimed at promoting the sustainable use of resources on land and it complements planetary goals to promote sustainability. In this regard, there is need to include all stakeholders to realize these objectives. Mitchel’s stakeholder model, as described in the course materials provides a basis for analyzing the responsibility of all stakeholders towards the realization of the above-mentioned objectives.

The current model reflects the traditional view of evaluating stakeholders, which is defined by the power they wield over an organization. However, it is not a holistic measure of understanding stakeholder interests because it excludes subjective values of engagement affecting people and the planet. For example, the model fails to capture the injustices of human trafficking and the use of child labor in international business, in which the airline industry is a participant.

Evidence of these claims can be found in the works of Osobajo and Moore (2017), which has documented injustices meted against communities in the oil-rich Niger Delta region by giant multinationals. The authors claim that the primary stakeholders in the oil drilling business are the government of Nigeria and oil-producing corporations. Secondary stakeholders include non-governmental organizations and subgroups of local communities that live in the region. This classification model helps to understand who has the highest culpability in destroying natural ecosystems. Therefore, it can be used to identify primary and secondary stakeholders affecting an industry, thereby providing a basis for developing different strategies for addressing their needs.

Given that one organization cannot effectively address planetary concerns, it is important for all stakeholders to be consulted when developing sustainable management policies. Hunt and Watkiss (2011) conducted a study in the construction industry to evaluate how climate change influences the adaptation of cities to their built environment highlighted the need for early stakeholder engagement to realize sustainable development goals. Based on findings of assessments completed in London and New York, the authors found that early stakeholder engagement helped to better adapt the city to biodiversity challenges (Hunt and Watkiss, 2011).

The researchers also demonstrated that early stakeholder engagement helped to establish strong communication protocols that were pivotal in enhancing coordination among different interest groups in the industry (Hunt and Watkiss, 2011). This example shows that timeliness and tact are important strategies that can be adopted to promote a holistic understanding of sustainable development goals.

Week Number 2 SDG 15 Life on Land
Specific Target being addressed All stakeholders
What we are doing now Traditionally, our organization has depended on the insights of top managers to balance the needs of all stakeholders in the aviation sector. Therefore, employees and lower-ranking workers have had little input on such decisions, thereby creating an environment where the firm’s activities are largely controlled by a few powerful “pressure” groups. This approach to decision-making has created an “Isolation culture” where few employees understand how their tasks align with the SDGs highlighted in this paper.
What we could do Using evidence as a foundation or decision-making would also help to minimize the political distortions affecting the realization of SDG goals in the aviation industry. This is because there have been increased cases of managers or employees disagreeing with external shareholders regarding various operational issues. At the heart of such discussions is mistrust and patronage that have shifted the focus away from building consensus on common plans to appease the interests of powerful stakeholder groups. Therefore, basing all policy decisions on evidence could help to address such challenges because it draws attention to issues that are of common interest, as opposed to those that would appease one group alone.

SDG 13 Climate Action

The importance of addressing climate change as part of the plan to realize SDG 13 serves two functions for organizations in the aviation industry. First, it helps them to adapt to some of the pressing challenges associated with climate change. Secondly, it encourages organizations to join the fight for the minimization of climate change effects by embracing sustainable practices. The overall goal of this plan is to make the organization more resilient to the effects of climate change and better protect communities from poverty by expanding employment opportunities through the adoption of “green” practices (Howard-Grenville et al., 2014). For example, it could lead to the inclusion of sustainability as a key area of policy concern affecting all policy decisions to be formulated or implemented in the organization.

Climate change concerns are often addressed at an organizational level by evaluating the type of operation they follow. Traditionally, most firms use the linear model, which is based on the assumption that resources are infinite – in reality, they are finite. This model has led to an increased imbalance between profit and costs through the creation of a resource-constrained economy, where materials become increasingly expensive as they are depleted (Howard-Grenville et al., 2014).

National isolationism has also emerged from this trend as countries become protective of their resources and energy reserves as they dwindle through copious consumption. This pattern could negatively affect the future of multinational firms because they undertake international travel operations, which are vulnerable to border closures and high levels of bureaucracy that may impede efficiency.

To address the challenges highlighted above, organizations have tried to build internal resiliency by undertaking fundamental reforms that have already been instituted to provide a strong foundation for developing future measures of addressing climate change. This action is linked to some of the suggestions highlighted by Howard-Grenville et al. (2014), which emphasize the need for organizations to build resilience to manage emerging social and economic challenges. It is predicted that doing so would make firms more adaptive to operating in a business environment characterized by uncertainty.

Week Number 3 SDG 13: Climate Action
Specific Target being addressed Managers
What we are doing now Part of the steps taken to mitigate the effects of climate change in the aviation sector involve better traffic management and policy-based solutions. For example, our organization participates in emission trading and carbon offsets. This plan caps the carbon emissions that can be produced by the airline, thereby providing a basis for reviewing operations that need to be sustained and those that should be eliminated. These plans have helped to create awareness about the environmental impact of the airline’s activities but have failed to create a strong employee-buy-in because they are industry-specific and not organization-specific.
What we could do

Part of the plan to build internal resiliency to climate change should include efforts to reduce the overall greenhouse gas emissions by adopting organization-specific policies that are geared towards supporting efforts to minimize the impact of climate change as a core SDG. For example, increasing the turnover for the purchase of new aircraft could boost this agenda. Additionally, airlines could rethink supply chain networks by changing production plans and redefining the value of traditional resources on communities to better enhance efficiency. These plans would support efforts to minimize the impact of climate change.

SDG 12 Responsible Production and Consumption

Strategies aimed at realizing SDG 12, which is focused on promoting responsible production and consumption have been premised on the need to increase resource efficiency. For example, Carpenter and Dunung (2012) proposed multilateral netting as a model for promoting resource efficiency in cross-border payments for multinational corporations. The model is designed to minimize taxes and the burden of cross-border payments when transactions involve companies operating in different parts of the world.

The need for effective collaboration has also been proposed as an alternative strategy and it has yielded positive results in some fields, such as the education sector, where the collaboration of UNICEF and IKEA in India, enabled educators to reach more than 74 million children through the promotion of education rights (UNICEF, 2020). These examples demonstrate that organizations can achieve responsible production and consumption through resource efficiency

Part of the discussions that are focused on promoting responsible production and consumption are centered on understanding tenets of organizational processes that lead to this outcome. For example, Richter and Arndt (2018), suggests that there is a difference between “product” and “process” legitimacy, as sought by organizations through their CSR initiatives. The authors analyzed British American Tobacco (BAT) as a case study to demonstrate how the company sought process legitimacy, which was referred to as “legitimacy approval” and a fundamental approach to meeting CSR goals. The BAT case study highlights how a company that sells “controversial” products, such as cigarettes, can seek legitimacy in a society that is abhors smoking.

Responsible production and consumption patterns could also be enriched through the development of ethical supply chains, as proposed by Aschendbrand, Proctor and Trebilcock (2018). The plan is based on the need to digitize supply chain systems to increase efficiency and enable companies to use them as a differentiating factor for redesigning supply chain initiatives.

Freise and Seuring (2015) have supported similar proposals in the clothing industry by providing evidence, which indicates that the transformation of supply chain networks has yielded positive results in the management of environmental and social risks of production (Freise and Seuring, 2015). Therefore, developing ethical supply chains could provide a reliable basis for promoting responsible production and consumption. Overall, these proposals contribute to the efficient use of resources, thereby providing a basis for supporting responsible production.

Week Number 4 SDG 12 Responsible Production and Consumption
Specific Target being addressed Employees and Customers
What we are doing now For purposes of improving production efficiency and promoting responsible consumption, our organization has employed the waste hierarchy model discussed in the course materials, which enhances efficiency by giving impetus for organizations to remove, reduce or reuse waste. The plan has been implemented throughout all departments in the organization and it also includes clients as well. For example, the introduction of paperless booking is consistent with this strategy.
What we could do

To promote responsible production and consumption airlines should embrace resource efficiency as a core principle of management. Various areas of operational management could benefit from this plan. For example, redesigning financial processing systems to make them cheaper and more efficient by pursuing collaborative partnerships with third party entities could contribute towards the realization of this goal.

Promoting efficiency through collaboration could be further integrated into the resource management plans of the airline as a supplementary strategy. For example, managers could make it a priority to phase-out older and inefficient aircraft by replacing them with newer ones. This proposal could lead to increased cost savings, especially in the areas of fuel management and repair costs. Already, many airlines in the industry have adopted this strategy by purchasing more fuel-efficient planes and the trend is likely to continue in future.

SDG 1 No Poverty

Improving employee welfare supports SDG 1, which is focused on the elimination of poverty. Poverty is largely a leadership problem that can be addressed by understanding the link between human rights, bad governance, and the failure of the international community to sanction corporations promoting activities that support poverty. Jameson, Song and Pecht (2016) have explained the complexity of this relationship when they evaluated the link between human rights abuses and the economic exploitation of minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Its resources notwithstanding, the exploitation of minerals has fueled decades of war and human rights abuses from militia groups that fund the chaos through the profits they get from organizations that buy their resources (Amnesty International and Afrewatch, 2020). In turn, they use these resources to finance local wars, thereby undermining the economic development of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.

The international community has a role to play in preventing corporations from being part of the problem because their actions form a key link in the creation of poverty. Using the DRC case as an example, it can impose sanctions or “put pressure” on organizations not to trade with the militia groups to prevent the flow of funds used to finance the above-mentioned abuses (Jolly, 2020).

This strategy would be the first basis for instituting change in society because a withdrawal of funding could inevitably mean that the militias lack the financial resources to support human rights abuses that eventually lead to unemployment and poverty (Jameson, Song and Pecht, 2016). This example highlights the role that ineffective leadership at the local, state or international level could play in undermining people’s wellbeing.

At an organization level, managers need to play a pivotal role in protecting the interests of their workers because they must provide them with the right environment to work productively and safely. This goal is based on the concept of donut economics, which suggests that a larger social welfare plan needs to be established above the wider scope of interests affecting profitability to lift people out of poverty. If the donut model were applied to the aviation sector, it would mean that there would be a significant increase in the contribution of workers to decision-making processes. In other words, it would prioritize the interest of employees in the management’s decision-making process.

Week Number 5 SDG 1 No Poverty
Specific Target being addressed Employees
What we are doing now The aviation industry is one of the most unionized industries in the world because employees advance their interests through such groups. These bodies are mostly comprised of trusted staff who can champion workers’ interests to management. Issues relating to salaries, remuneration and working conditions have mostly been negotiated through such forums. However, there has been growing dissatisfaction with the efficacy of such an arrangement in addressing some of the new challenges affecting workers in the industry. For example, employees are concerned about job security in an increasingly uncertain global industry. They have expressed their cynicism in using unions to address such concerns.
What we could do There is an opportunity for airlines to engage community members and employees by creating new jobs from the adoption of sustainable business practices. For example, the adoption of “green” practices should create new sustainable jobs for employees who are at risk of losing their jobs due to an uncertain business environment. Similarly, as highlighted in the course materials, partnerships could be sought through third-party relationships to promote integration across business divisions and enhance synergy to improve efficiency and employee welfare.

SDG 17 Partnerships for Sustainable Development

The need for collaboration and partnerships in international business aims to advance the concept of “people,” which is interconnected with profits and planets. Several models of management, such as the triple bottom line approach, which is borrowed from course materials, emphasizes the need to address people, planet, and profit concerns, as an interlinked network of factors affecting sustainability goals. People help to explain the interrelationship in ideas that would eventually lead to the realization of SDG 17 (Stott and Murphy, 2020).

Stemming from its importance in meeting organizational goals, managers are encouraged to seek strategic partnerships with stakeholders who share the same vision and promote collaborative exercises that support sustainable development (Stott and Murphy, 2020). This goal could be achieved by transforming corporate governance practices to reflect sustainability as a precondition for signing partnership agreements.

Different industries have sought varied types of collaborative frameworks to promote sustainable development. For example, in the aviation sector, operational efficiency has been maximized when airlines share maintenance equipment, expertise, and leverage on economies of scale. Over time, they have been built on a history of shared systems, open communication, and a common vision among partners.

Therefore, they provide a sound foundation for developing future partnerships with other stakeholders. Partnerships have also been nurtured to develop standardized strategies for addressing common challenges affecting the industry, like climate change. These collaborative plans have allowed firms to share ideas and be better adapted to external challenges affecting the business environment.

At an employee level, partnerships can be sought through interpersonal relationships in the workplace. They are known to increase the productivity and efficiency of employees in the workplace because they allow workers to share ideas and brainstorm on operational matters (Stott and Murphy, 2020). Borrowing from the teachings of Esther Perel, highlighted in the course materials, the same partnership plan can be used to build trust among coworkers because it is the basis for developing productive relationships. This strategy can be implemented in different ways, subject to organizational considerations, but the following template provides a more detailed plan that contextualizes the strategy in my organizational setting.

Week Number 6 SDG No 17: Partnerships for Sustainable Development
Specific Target being addressed Stakeholders – Employees
What we are doing now Management emphasizes the need for different departments to synchronize their processes and collaborate.
Automation has been used as the foundation for developing most collaborative activities. This plan has left a gap in human interactions, especially among people working on different tasks, thereby causing a decline in overall motivation levels.
What we could do Inter-organizational relationships that are commonly used in the organization and the wider airline industry could be used as a basis for forming collaborative agreements. These inter-organizational relationships could be pursued at various levels of operations to include government-government partnerships, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)-NGOs collaborative programs, and business-to-business agreements.
There should be an increase in team-related activities in the organization to help develop a competitive spirit among employees. It will allow different groups of workers to collaborate in the achievement of common goals. For example, more workers should be given opportunities to attend seminars and training programs where they interact face-to-face with their colleagues. Such events should be scheduled to coincide with other programs, thereby giving room for employees from different departments to interact with one another.


The recommendations highlighted in this action plan demonstrate the importance of pursuing sustainable objectives in the aviation sector. This approach to leadership encourages organizations to balance environmental, societal, and economic interests in corporate management. Key segments of this action plan discuss leadership, the responsibility to stakeholders, climate change, responsible production and consumption, poverty, and partnerships for sustainable development as key areas of operational management requiring change. The proposed reforms suggest possible strategies that could be implemented at an organizational level to promote the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 (no poverty), 12 (responsible production and consumption), 13 (climate action), 15 (Life on Land), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), and 17 (partnerships and collaboration).

Notably, the recommendations mentioned in this document are tailored to build on current gains made in the sector in promoting CSR initiatives and provide new strategic directions that management should follow to exploit opportunities associated with the adoption of sustainable development and avoid the challenges occasioned by an increasingly constrained global economy. Therefore, the action plan contributes towards enhancing existing knowledge, while creating room for further improvements through an interdisciplinary research approach. This holistic framework of analyzing organizational activities outlines the foundation for merging organizational and SDG goals in the aviation sector.

Reference List

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Week 1 Reflections: Instinctive Responses

What Should / Would You Do? And why?

The first instinctive response that comes to mind is to profile people who are likely to buy electric cars, such as urban dwellers, environmentalists, and young people.

How Do You Move Beyond An ‘Instinctive’ Response To Analyze And Justify Your Decision-making?

To move beyond my instinctive response, I would base the marketing plan on facts, such as the number of people who share the above demographic qualities and their purchasing history.

Week 2 Reflections: Why are People Interested in How Businesses Behave?

Why Do You Think These Issues Matter To Ethics And Responsibility?

The conduct of businesses and their behavior matters to ethics and responsibility because businesses need to be mindful of their impact on all stakeholders affected by their activities.

Why Are People Interested In What Business Is Doing?

People have an increased understanding of the power of businesses on societies and communities. Consequently, they are demanding more accountability from organizations because they influence various spheres of life.

Week 3 Reflections: “The Courts Are Deciding Who Is To Blame for Climate Change”

If Your Organization Was Being Held Accountable For Its Record On Climate Change, What Actions Do You Continue To Do That Make Climate Change Worse?

The use of fossil fuel to power aircraft would still go on despite its link with greenhouse gas emissions because few developments have occurred in the aviation sector to promote the use of alternative fuels.

What Decisions Have Been Taken That Clearly Impact Negatively On Those Most At Risk?

The growth of budget airlines has increased passenger traffic in major market segments thereby increasing the total volume of greenhouse gases associated with the aviation sector.

Have You Looked To Address Some Of Your Impacts, While Ignoring Others -Why?

Some of the impacts of climate change have been prioritized over others due to financial constraints

Week 4 Reflections: “But why Is More Efficient Resource Use Needed?”

What Resources Do You Depend On That Are Potentially Limited?

Capital is one of the most valuable resources in the aviation industry because of its capital-intensive nature.

Who Controls The Resources That You Need?

The company’s directors and the CEO control the company’s resources.

Who Do You Rely On To Access Those Resources?

We rely on the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to access these resources.

Week 5 Reflections: Exploring the People Issues – Reflection 2

What Are The Issues Related To People That You Could See From The Rana Plaza / RMG Case Study Resources In Slide 3?

The case study on Rana Plaza underscores the role of managers in protecting employee welfare because thousands of lives were lost due to avoidable circumstances.

How the Case Links With Ethics, Responsibility, and Sustainability

The case draws attention to the issue of underpayment in the aviation industry and the irresponsibility of some managers to subject employees to unsafe working conditions, which increases their vulnerability to poverty.

Week 6 Reflections:

Who Are Your Organization’s Most Challenging Stakeholders?

Customers are the most challenging stakeholders in the airline industry because of their changing preferences and tastes.

How Might You Engage Those Stakeholders Who Are Currently Dissatisfied With Your Organization?

Customers may be engaged via social media platforms, which allows for real-time communication with company representatives.

Could Any Of Your ‘Challenging’ Stakeholders Potentially Become Future Partners?

Yes. Customers have proved to be an asset for the organization because they provide feedback about our products and services, thereby enabling us to tweak them.

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