Building trust in the air: Is airline corporate social responsibility reporting taking off?

Corporate sustainability reporting is not just about communication

It’s also about basing concrete, measureable actions in a robust corporate sustainability strategy that’s integrated with a company’s overall goals. That means better use of scarce resources, better compliance with increased regulations and more satisfied customers. Airlines are taking notice and working to improve their corporate sustainability reporting.

How are airlines doing?

In our new report Building trust in the air: Is airline corporate sustainability reporting taking off? , we take a close look at how airlines are reporting on corporate sustainability and suggest some ways the sector can improve. We reviewed 46 of the world’s largest airlines, across all regions and segments, to see how their corporate sustainability reporting stacks up.

Our methodology rated reports across a whole range of factors around comprehensiveness and quality. We found that the number of airlines reporting on corporate sustainability is increasing. So is the quality of reports, but there’s still room for improvement. While a number of airlines are already doing well, none of them scored an ‘excellent’ on our rating scale.

Reliable, relevant data

In our view, excellent corporate sustainability reporting is integrated, relevant and verified. Accurate data needs to be presented clearly, without a lot of marketing hype. It’s important to make sure that all the information that’s important to stakeholders is covered. Verification can help, although it’s still atypical. We expect corporate sustainability reporting to merge with financial reporting in the near future. Integrated reports will help stakeholders understand and compare risk and performance. That’s good news for companies and their stakeholders alike.

Sector-wide standards would significantly improve reporting around areas like carbon emissions

Airline reports are hard to compare. Take fuel efficiency and carbon emissions levels. Airlines use different data units, with some reporting in miles and some in kilometers. That’s the smallest part of the problem, though, since data units are easy to convert. Underlying assumptions about how to define a passenger mile (or kilometer) differ too. Sector-wide standards would be a big step forward.