Terri Morrissey and Richard Plenty share their thoughts on sustainability and how building a sustainable future for airports requires investment in people.
Sustainability has been defined by the Brundland Commission as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
In 2018, John Elkington – who first used the term, “The Triple Bottom Line”, to describe the sustainability pillars of profit, people and planet – penned an article in the Harvard Business Review suggesting that it was time to rethink the concept.
In the article, he claimed that there had been a distinct failure to really benchmark all three pillars. Elkington had, he explained, intended the Triple Bottom Line to be a call for radical system changes, and not just another accounting system for organisations to use when assessing their sustainability.
Twenty-five years on he believed the focus should be on technological breakthroughs, innovation and disruption in order to bring a ray of light to next generation solutions to global issues and challenges.
This systems view of sustainability was also taken by Fritjof Capra (2015). He talked about the interconnectivity and interdependence of a number of disciplines, including biology, cognition, social and ecological sciences to bring together a holistic view of sustainability in a global world.
So, what can organisations do to maintain sustainability in this context? And specifically, what can airports do? Airports are, of course, trying to reduce carbon emissions through a combination of technological innovation and behaviour modification. But what can they do in relation to the people side of the equation?
Sustainable organisations know that in order to survive into the future they need to value the contribution of their people, even in times of uncertainty and crisis. How people are treated in those times becomes an important part of the future viability of the organisation, not to mention the reputational impact and the employer branding proposition.
Enlightened leaders know that building a sustainable future for their organisations requires an investment in people and in their development. Even in times of crisis, organisations cannot ignore the future and future requirements of the business.
What skills will be needed? Do we have those skills? How can we develop those skills? Can we upskill and retrain the existing workforce to be ready to take up tomorrow’s challenges? And will we have to recruit new talent? These are just some of the questions that need to be asked and answered.
There is a dilemma here. In order to survive it may be necessary to let people go to save on costs. But a fundamental question needs to be asked: What impact will this action have in the longer-term?
If sustainability is the goal, then maybe we need to ponder more on this question and reflect on the potential longer-term damage that may be done to the reputation and branding of the organisation as an employer of the future.
Airports are vital to economic life and in some cases a national asset. In these circumstances, perhaps governments should also consider what steps they could take to help airports preserve the employment of those involved. Short-term actions can have longer and unintended consequences.
Arrivals and Departures
Ryanair’s former director of route development, Kate Sherry, is the new aviation director at Edinburgh Airport and will oversee the airport’s recovery from the impact of the current pandemic, taking over the vital role of managing airline relationships and ensuring that Scotland’s largest airport retains and grows its connectivity in the coming years.
AA Ponomarenko was elected chairman of JSC Sheremetyevo International Airport (JSC SIA), the operator of Moscow Sheremetyevo, at a regular meeting of the company’s board of directors on September 30, 2020.
London Luton Airport (LLA) in the UK has announced the appointment of Jonathan Rayner as its new chief commercial officer. He joins from Edinburgh Airport and will be responsible for growing and developing the gateway’s commercial activity by working with airlines, retailers and other business partners.
Newcastle Airport in Australia has welcomed Robert Sharp, the former group executive of Virgin Australia Airlines as an independent member on the airport’s Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee (ARCC).
David Walters is the new finance director at Cardiff Airport. As part of the board he is expected to play a significant role at a strategic level in delivering and maintaining a successful and sustainable airport for Wales.
Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport (MSP) has a new police chief, appointing Matt Christenson from within after deciding that the 29-year airport veteran was the best person for the job. “Chief Christenson has tremendous knowledge of the entire policing operation at MSP, everything from anti-terrorism efforts to patrol, investigations, traffic control, community outreach and records administration,” said Mike Everson, director of public safety for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
Fayetteville Regional Airport’s acting interim airport director, Toney Coleman, has taken up the top job at the North Carolina gateway on a full-time basis following a national search. Predecessor, Bradley White, retired in April.