Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sustainability flies! Lufthansa reports.

Lufthansa and sustainability in the skies. I returned today from Germany where i was presenting to a large business on Corporate Responsibility Reporting. I flew Lufthansa between Tel Aviv and Frankfurt. Lufthansa crew do not usually speak Hebrew , so imagine our surprise when this flight attendant gets on the loudspeaker and proceeds to give us the landing blurb in Hebrew. He explains that he has been learning the language for three weeks, and he rounds off with  "Maccabi Tel Aviv are the champions!" Passengers on the flight smiled and clapped enthusiastically! (Myself, I prefer Manchester United ) Kinda reminded me of what i hear about Southwest Airlines. Southwest Lufthansa. This guy generated such a positive reaction, passengers loved it and will remember this small but thoughtful gesture of friendship towards Hebrew-speakers on the flight . And several will tell their friends. This is how positive reputation is built, not only via press-releases. Well done to this Lufthansa guy!

Pleasing to note, the tales-of-Lufthansa  broadcast on the in-flight screens includes a mention that passengers can read about the airline's social and environmental initiatives in the airline's Sustainability Report. Nice touch, though i suspect that a one sentence plug flew (bad pun!) over the heads of most of the aircraft passengers. But, aha! It didnt escape me. Let's read it ....

It's called Balance. It's a heavyish 124 pages short and  selectively covers the year 2008. It's not GRI and its not assured (humph) . In scanning the ATR section (About This Report, for the non-pros amongst us) , which i always do to know what's included and what's not, I noticed a rather anachronistic statement referring to the scope of the report which excludes "third-party services, as Lufthansa has no influence either on their  performance or on the aircraft operated". Aren't those days over, when we refused to be accountable for the actions of our suppliers? Isn't it generally accepted that companies DO have a degree of responsibility AND an influence over service providers? Does Lufthansa REALLY mean they have NO influence ? And does this mean that there is NO attention paid to the kind of third party services are employed in the name of the German aviation giant, with 108,000 employees, 515 aircraft and a $3 billion balance sheet? Perhaps they hadn't read their Chairman's intro which says : "As always, we strive to convince through quality and performance. This applies to all companies within the Group, and we also bring our influence to bear on partners, suppliers and the framework of conditions in which we operate". Nothing much else is written about the thousands of suppliers i expect supply Lufthansa with meals, equipment, spare parts, overflow flight services, paper, services and whatever else it needs to transport millions of passengers and freight all over the world. (humph again). But, there is GOOD NEWS. Lufthansa has been running the HelpAlliance for the past 10 years, which has supported over 60 projects supporting underprivileged children in the world's poorest countries. Passengers are engouraged to donate cash or airmiles. Perhaps i could donate Chunky Monkey?

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:


Anonymous said...

Thank you Elaine for your writing about Lufthansa Sustainability. I need this file for my paper work.


elaine said...

Hello Tika, thank you for reading and for commenting, I am pleased my post was of assistance. Don't hesitate to be in touch if I can help further in any way!
best regards, elaine

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