We are proud to have our very own Head of Sustainability, Sophia Mendelsohn featured along with Nestlé USA’s Chairman and CEO Paul Grimwood and Starwood Vice President Sustainability, Global Citizenship Andrea Pinabell in this Mediaplanet roundtable discussion on the importance of sustainability in business. Presented here is her portion of the conversation with Mediaplanet
GREEN BUSINESS New studies show that businesses that develop goods and services that reduce the impacts of climate change, water scarcity and emissions are more successful than business that don’t.
Mediaplanet: How do you see climate change impacting your business in the future?
Sophia Leonora Mendelsohn: Airlines are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Scientists predict climate change will bring more frequent and severe weather events, and such episodes can disrupt flight schedules and threaten physical infrastructure. We believe that raising awareness among crew members and customers about climate change is part of our responsibility.
MP: What do your customers say are the most important sustainability issues to them?
SM: Our customers want to know that in the future, there will still be naturally beautiful, healthy destinations– like clean beaches and national parks– to fly to. We agree. With customer support, we have increased recycling onboard and in terminals, and increased greenhouse gas offsetting to start to protect those places.
MP: How have you witnessed sustainability initiatives change within the past five years?
SM: People now recognize that business and environmentalism are completely compatible. We have invested in Sharklets – curved extensions to the wing that provide greater lift and improve fuel efficiency by roughly 3 percent on all our new A320s and A321s. We have advocated for the use of Sharklets since 2006, when we partnered with Airbus to test designs on our aircraft. Through our use of Sharklets, last year we avoided roughly 5,210 metric tons of CO2 emissions and $1.7 million in fuel costs.
MP: What is one way that your company is lessening your environmental footprint?
SM: There’s an old business adage, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” We are starting to measure and value natural resources the same way we do finances. We are calculating our waste to landfill, recycling, composting and water use. We are also attempting to measure and value the priceless– the worth of the Caribbean’s natural beauty to our ticket sales. Without this region’s healthy ecosystem, a major portion of our business would not exist.
MP: What is one of the greatest challenges you face when implementing new sustainability initiatives?
SM: Aviation has depended and changed thanks to science and innovation. Because of funding for this creativity, planes have gone from single-seaters to double-deckers in a hundred years. In the next hundred, biofuel and efficient technology will make the industry sustainable. These need investment from governments and companies to bring benefits to consumers. Our biggest challenge is the cost and availability of biofuel vs. traditional jet fuel. We could not fly entirely on biofuels and offset all emissions without raising prices.
MP: Where is the future of sustainability going? What are some new trends that you’re excited about?
SM: Sustainability will be so woven into standard business practice that it won’t be a standalone issue anymore. What we now call “addressing climate change” will simply be risk mitigation. Volunteering, philanthropy, and social responsibility will just be brand building and protection. As social media continues to increase transparency and bring consumers closer to brands’ personalities, we’ll start to see companies the way we see people as good or bad citizens.