Major corporations must move CSR beyond window dressing and into a new culture of corporate citizenship, says Boeing’s Raymond Francis
In today’s global business landscape, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become yet another benchmark by which companies are judged by their stakeholders and by the communities in which they operate.
However, CSR is too often regarded as merely “window dressing” – a way of presenting an acceptable face to the outside world in an age when the public is ever more suspicious and cynical about the motives and ethics of “big business.”
Like all businesses, Boeing has a responsibility to its stakeholders – including the communities where its employees live and work, and globally where its products are used – to be a good “corporate citizen” and lead by example.
Boeing takes this corporate social responsibility seriously. Historically, our social efforts took the form of philanthropy and volunteerism.
Now that is changing: we are evolving to a global corporate citizenship model and working to engage our entire enterprise to embed this concept into everything we do. This is the view of our business in the context of the larger world surrounding it.
CSR is not just about corporate philanthropy or volunteerism. It should be the means by which companies truly engage with and contribute towards the development of the communities within which they operate, and on which they ultimately depend.
At Boeing, our Global Corporate Citizenship programme seeks to ensure that we create positive changes. We do this through the products we develop and by shaping the modern, interconnected world in which we live today.
Overall, what we are trying to do through the Boeing Corporate Citizenship model is influence systems change in all aspects of communities so that they are vibrant places to live in for all.
Our community investments reflect our view that all communities are integrated systems composed of these basic categories, including the environment, with a particular focus on protecting natural habitats and inspiring environmental citizenship. The other basic areas are: health and human services, arts and culture, education and civic awareness.
The aviation industry accounts for some two per cent of global carbon emissions. As the world’s leading aerospace manufacturer, Boeing is helping address the serious global issue of climate change by pioneering the development of new technologies and systems which produce lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft and allow aircraft to be operated more effectively, reducing unnecessarily long routes and wasteful “holding” time near busy airports.
One such example is a Boeing-developed air traffic management system called Tailored Arrivals, which essentially allows pilots to fly the shortest and most fuel efficient flight paths.
The system takes into consideration air traffic, airspace, meteorological, obstacle clearance and environmental constraints which might be encountered during an arrival. Significant environmental and economic benefits have been realized by users of the system, including the San Francisco International Airport.
During 1,000 flights from 2007 to 2008 by four airlines that use the procedure regularly – United Airlines, Air New Zealand, Qantas and Japan Airlines — fuel use was reduced by 1.1 million pounds and carbon dioxide emissions by 3.6 million pounds. In recognition of these efforts, Boeing was recently awarded the 2009 Jane’s ATC Global Award.
Boeing is also helping guide the industry toward supporting the development and commercialization of a new generation of sustainable biofuels that offer a lower lifecycle carbon footprint than traditional petroleum-based fuels, and don’t compete with food crops for water and land resources.
Here in Korea, we have collaborated with the Korea Green Foundation to actively engage with young people aged 11-13, through the Climate Change Classroom. Classes are held on Saturdays over a three-month period and students participate in a multifaceted learning experience involving lectures, movies, outdoor activities and field trips.
Outdoor activities are often a highlight as students can be seen putting their knowledge to good use, for example holding recycling campaigns held in conjunction with sporting events, where classes set up booths to collect recyclable materials from fans leaving the venue and remind them of the importance of conservation.
Family members of the students are also invited to take part in a two-year challenge to reduce their carbon footprints; making the Climate Change Classroom a sustainable initiative.
Boeing has created five-year environmental targets for our major manufacturing facilities to meet by 2012. By then, we aim to have achieved 25 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions intensity and hazardous waste intensity, and a 25 percent increase in energy efficiency and recycling rates.
Beyond the environment, Boeing is also focused on health and human services to advance the economic well-being and health of vulnerable residents. For example in Malaysia, Boeing works with the Kanser Network Association-Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan (KanWork) to provide less educated women with access to cancer information, education and support.
The company also provides support to the World Food Program in Indonesia and the Philippines to improve infant healthcare in rural areas. The work aids organizations that provide assistance to the victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution in Southeast Asia.
The Corporate Citizenship Integration Council or CCIC is also important in helping us understand how we can best integrate our products, operations and the community which underlines the overall CSR strategy. Including top leaders from across the company, the Council is in itself another example of how corporate citizenship is manifested at Boeing.
While the economic recession has forced many companies to cut back on their amount of money invested in CSR, Boeing will continue to invest time, effort and resources in engaging with communities and stakeholders across the world. It is an integral part of our global business strategy, and represents the kind of company Boeing aspires to be.
Raymond Francis is director of communications with Boeing in South East Asia