Qatar Airways Cargo (QR) has pledged to carry 1 million kilos of humanitarian aid and medical supplies across the world free of charge for charities between now and the end of this year. This marks the first chapter of a much larger sustainability project called ‘We Qare’, which focuses on four fundamental pillars: economy, environment, society and culture, and aims to create a positive impact on the air cargo industry and the world in general. CFG asked Guillaume Halleux (GH), Chief Officer Cargo at Qatar Airways Cargo, about the details of We Qare and the ‘1 Million Kilos’ campaign.
"This action was triggered by the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic is a tragedy for millions of people, and we looked for ways how we, as an airline, could help those in the greatest difficulty.
This solution – shipping 1 million kilos of cargo free of charge – is a firm commitment for QR Cargo. More than just words, we wanted to act and to adopt a comprehensive approach based on actions
for the future," Guillaume Halleux states in the recent press release.
How does ‘1 Million Kilos’ work in practice?
CFG: How does a charity go about booking the space, since usually the business is done via freight forwarders?
GH: The ‘1 Million Kilos’ campaign is open to a selected number of our freight forwarder customers, each of which has been allocated a set number of kilos which they can donate to the charity or charities of their choice. So, it is still a transaction between the airline and the freight forwarder.
Qatar Airways wants to keep the process as simple as possible for all involved, especially the charities who do not need to be burdened with extra paperwork, and so all we require is for the charity to confirm that they have received the offer of free transport and then the booking is made by the forwarder as normal. It is that easy.
I am glad to say that forwarders have already been quick to adopt and take part in the campaign. It is great news for the industry and for the people around the world who will benefit from this initiative.
We have also found that forwarders are offering free of charge pre- and post-airfreight pick-up and delivery by truck or other modes, as well as free customs brokerage.
What is exempt from the free kilos?
The guideline for the Qatar Airways team is to allow the movement of medical equipment, humanitarian relief aid and essential products, as long as they fit in the airplane and do not mean an additional cost to transport, such as live animals and products requiring special handling.
Typically, in the charity sector you are transporting mostly dry food or aid and relief equipment but nothing needing special handling at origin and destination. Our only limit is that the goods must be for charitable purposes.
Are the kilos on scheduled flights only or are special charity charters available?
Typically, no. We are the biggest carrier in the world so our cargo capacity, our global network and frequencies will serve the needs of our customers. So, the kilos will be on scheduled flights, our entire network is available to our freight forwarder customers and therefore to charities and we will ship the goods wherever we operate.
No commercial shipments will take the place of a charitable shipment. If a charitable shipment is booked, we will not cancel it for a commercial shipment. It seems only natural to us, but it is important to highlight.
Tell us more about the overall ‘We Qare’ project. What does ‘We Qare’ encompass in total?
QR cares about the future of the industry and wants to act – to be a major player. It is based on sustainability: the concerns of the current generation, boosted by the COVID-19 crisis: a search for meaning (both at work and in their personal lives) and awareness of the impact of our actions.
There is also the need to build a sustainable future and as such a more sustainable business: a new business model. There is no real leader in this area within the airfreight industry but several isolated initiatives. Qatar Airways wants to adopt the position of leader and drive the industry forward and change attitudes.
We want to make sustainability applicable to everyday life in air cargo through a series of concrete actions that are designed for the industry. These actions will be based on the four fundamental aspects of sustainability: the economy, society, culture, and the environment. The ‘We Qare’ actions will not necessarily be linked to current events, but they reveal QR’s intrinsic values. Certain actions will be co-constructed with employees and each action is a chapter.
Which of the UN SDGs does Qatar Airways Cargo follow?
The aim of ‘We Qare’ is to contribute to the achievement of all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. QR cannot tackle the 17 SDGs by itself, but the goals will certainly inspire future ‘We Qare’ chapters.
If we take the first chapter, ‘1 Million Kilos’, as an example, it’s easy to see how this operation is fully in line with these UN goals for 2030 (goals 1 & 2).
Upcoming chapters will also be in line with these goals because their aim will be sustainability: reducing our carbon footprint by using new eco-friendly materials or biofuels, for example, promoting training, equality, young people and culture, protecting the environment, protecting wildlife from trafficking, etc. These are a few examples of the topics that will be the focus of future ‘We Qare’ chapters.
The idea is for ‘We Qare’ actions to be designed by and for the air cargo industry – they won’t necessarily fit into ‘boxes’ but that’s not what matters. What matters is the actions and their actual content – their sustainable aspect and their positive impact. The rest is a bonus.
How long is ‘We Qare’ planned for?
‘We Qare’ is a long-term sustainability project with no end date. We have intentionally designed it to be a ‘work in progress’ that can be adapted to suit the needs and priorities we want to focus on, and to be a project that is created in partnership with our employees. For example, with the first chapter, ‘1 Million Kilos’, I can definitely say that our employees are extremely proud to be taking part. Our employees want to do the right thing and being able to do just that within your company is a powerful way of bringing the team together.
How does Qatar Airways Cargo hope to influence other players in air cargo?
Our ambition for ‘We Qare’ goes way beyond the current focus on ‘1 Million Kilos’ which is the first chapter. There are already many sustainability initiatives within the industry and we welcome that fact, but we want to go further and rethink our business model as a whole – to make sustainability and corporate social responsibility a real driver of change and to fully incorporate them into the heart of our activities. We’re already doing this at QR Cargo, but we want to strengthen this even further with ‘We Qare’. As the world’s leading carrier, it’s also our responsibility to be proactive and bring about change.
We think we’re strong enough to do just that and to positively influence other stakeholders to make more commitments in this regard. This isn’t easy as our industry is very fragmented. The number of players, the number of touch points and the number of people involved in shipping just one kilo from A to B can include up to 20 different parties!
An airline such as Qatar Airways, which represents 8% of the global air cargo market, can slowly but surely be followed by other airlines so at the end of the day you have a group of airlines that represents 20% of the market and can drive the business in the same direction.
Thank you for your insights, Guillaume Halleux.
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