Three months into its pilot launch, and TIACA’s BlueSky program is already making waves outside of the air cargo industry. Glyn Hughes was recently invited to Miquel Ros’ Allplane* podcast #65 to talk about what the air cargo industry was doing to become more sustainable, and in particular about the BlueSky program.
“Thank you, Miquel. The fact that you have identified this as an important area for the industry, actually gives me great comfort […] to know that, if it is something that the broader
industry is placing a value on, then […] I know that we are also picking the right topics to place our time and energy and resources,” are TIACA Director General, Glyn Hughes’ closing words
in the 40-minute-podcast aired on 13JUN22.
The value of the air cargo industry
An important point: air cargo is finally being noticed outside of its industry. “Whilst in the last two and a half years, the world has become pretty familiar with what air cargo does in terms of moving things around the world, firstly with PPE and then, of course, vaccines, etc., the air cargo industry actually has a longer history than the passenger side of the industry. The first commercial aviation was actually moving cargo around the world. So, it has a long history, but it's really been the silent part of commercial aviation,” Glyn points out in his introduction. He goes on to illustrate a rarely mentioned statistic. Whilst the world’s eyes are mainly on passenger aviation, cargo is where the money is being made and what is keeping economies upright. His example: “In 2019, the value that countries earned from inbound tourism by air, globally, amounted to about 850 billion USD. In the same year, 2019, those same countries earned about 6.4 trillion USD dollars from the air cargo that moved in those same airplanes.”
The air cargo needs to be around to support global trends and developments
“So, the value to national economy from solid air cargo industry, is hugely important for society development, particularly for developing nations, etc. Which again is why topics such as Sustainability […] are critical, because the air cargo industry needs to be around to support global trends and developments,” he emphasizes. It needs to be aligned with how the world is evolving, which is why BlueSky takes a holistic approach. More than simply tackling environmental issues, the program embodies the UN Sustainability Goals around People, Planet, and Prosperity, in 8 assessment areas. It consists of three “Tiers”, whereby Tier 1 is a self-assessment, Tier 2 is a desktop independent assessment, and Tier 3 is an onsite audit.
When the BlueSky program was announced in MAR22, and a call was made for companies willing to volunteer as pilot testers, “we were overwhelmed!”, Glyn enthuses. “The support from the marketplace was tremendous, and that confirmed to us that we are on the right path.” TIACA settled on three organizations in three different stakeholder categories, to go through as pilots. They have all completed the intensive self-assessment questionnaire which tackles 8 assessment areas. The pilots’ program feedback, according to Glyn, is that the balance is right in the number of questions, the content of questions, and in what needs supplying. The results are now being assessed, and TIACA expects the Tier 1 pilot to conclude at the end of this month.
Change is on the horizon
The Second Tier (desktop verification process) is planned to go live from July onwards, and will last around six to seven months. In this tier, a slightly more detailed questionnaire will require participating organizations to submit evidence-based data. A company external to TIACA, called Change Horizon, will carry out an independent assessment of the company’s input based on 8 key points. It assesses what the company is doing regarding decarbonization activities, eliminating waste, protecting biodiversity, how it supports local economies and communities, what it does to increase supply chain business, how it improves life and well-being – a question of work culture and leadership. It will be rated on its efficiency and profitability, digital strategy, whether it is process driven, its quality management, how it attracts and retain employees, and how it builds and nurtures partnerships.
Independent confirmation of the desire to improve
Miqeul Ros summarizes: “The main advantage [of undergoing these assessments] is that you get a label of good conduct in an environment where ESG matters. You gain a better standing in public space.” He asks if participants receive “visual proof of achieving the first tier?” Glyn underlines “It is not a pass or fail, it’s a completion. Companies get back a personalized dashboard, showing where they are in each of the 8 assessment areas. We [TIACA] don’t publish their information. The organization can share through its social media channels, etc. if it wishes.” He points out that “Sustainability credentials will play an increasingly important role in how partners are selected,” be they business partners, customers, service providers, or regarding financing: “Many banks are shifting to ethical financing, so proof of sustainability will play a role here”, and that, with the dashboard, having “a way of independently confirming how long you are along your [sustainability] journey,” will assist these companies going forward.
Gearing up for Tier 3 in 2023
“Onsite assessments will be launched in 2023. We will recruit from the industry to create a global network of independent, onsite auditors,” Glyn reveals. Surely an interesting career expansion for air cargo industry experts across all stakeholder categories who wish to give something back to the industry, and help it develop more sustainably.
Summarizing the topic, Glyn advises that every organization should assess what degree of information they would like to get back from the program. Some may simply want a mirror and will carry out Tier 1. Others may wish to get feedback from an independent assessment, Tier 2, and a third group will be really interested in the independent guidance that a full report following an onsite assessment, can bring, highlighting the areas they can improve, and accelerating their sustainability journey. “The first stage is free,” he states. “The second and third tiers have costs, which we have not yet established.” TIACA is currently going through the pilots, which it expects to complete in the next week, and is looking to publish pricing information at the end of June. “Developing nations will have discounts. We are trying to make this accessible to all, since the benefits are for the many,” he concludes.
*Allplane is an independent media and consulting business specializing in the aviation and air travel industries
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