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Air New Zealand: Supercharging New Zealand's Success

13 Mar 2017
By Christopher Luxon
Whats in a brand nz story

Christopher Luxon, CEO of Air New Zealand, writes about the airlines sustainability framework and a deep commitment to a purpose far bigger than themselves. 

As a leader in New Zealand’s thriving tourism industry, I’m well aware of the draw of our stunning environment in attracting visitors to our shores. 

However, like many in the NZ Story network, I’m conscious of the dangers of relying on our country’s natural beauty alone to frame our global reputation - not least as often there’s a gap between visitor expectation and the actual landscapes they experience on arrival. 

Just as New Zealand business needs a broad and balanced framework to communicate our values offshore, I’m convinced that as business leaders we must take a broader approach to tackling the immense sustainability challenges that confront us globally. 

In the same way we can’t limit our national story to scenic snapshots, it would be simplistic to address immense issues like climate change by focusing on environmental matters in isolation – we must understand how economic, social and environmental agendas coexist.

I firmly believe business has a crucial role advocating a smarter way of thinking about sustainability and growth. For business growth is not bad. In fact it’s essential to create opportunity for positive change - society needs strong business and business needs a strong society. Similarly, at Air New Zealand we know our success is inextricably linked to a flourishing New Zealand, just as New Zealand’s success depends on a thriving airline.

And this is why we’ve embedded a framework for sustainable growth at the heart of our business.

At the core of our Sustainability Framework is a deep commitment to a purpose that’s far bigger than ourselves. Our purpose is to supercharge New Zealand’s success – socially, economically and environmentally – and over the last two years we’ve started to turn aspiration into action.

Since introducing the Sustainability Framework, our 11,500 Air New Zealanders have scrutinised our operations, telling me where we can do more and collaborating with partners to accelerate change. Certainly, standout achievements in the last year for me have been –

  • Making a public pledge to transition our entire ground fleet to electric vehicles and together with the CEOs of Mercury and Westpac, challenging other Kiwi businesses to do the same
  • Continuing our partnerships with DOC and iwi to bring back biodiversity and native wildlife on our Great Walks
  • Turning our loyalty programme into a force for good with the launch of the Airpoints for Schools donation programme, giving Kiwi kids new travel opportunities
  • Engaging an independent IATA team to audit our operations, making sure we’re on target to meet the aviation industry’s goal of carbon neutral growth by 2020

We’re on the right path, and many of our customers, investors and suppliers have told me they value our actions. Yet, there’s no doubt the biggest challenges are still ahead. 

As a long-haul carrier connecting our remote nation to the world, we face a stark trade-off between our carbon impact verses the great social and economic benefits we facilitate, opening the country to new markets and strengthening trade and tourism.

Grappling with these big dilemmas, I’ve learnt that there’s incredible value in expert advice. I expect our external Sustainability Advisory Panel will play an even greater role in helping us to provoke the right conversations and keep pace with our ambitious targets, like achieving total assurance from our complex global supply chain partners on the sustainability of every product we buy and radically reducing the waste we send to landfill. 

Being open about our failures will also help us to find solutions faster. A challenge that’s top of mind is how we unite our industry behind a sustainable model for tourism growth. It’s no secret some of our infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with the rapid growth in tourism, putting pressure on regional communities and compromising the visitor experience. 

In response, we’re using all our tools to encourage more visitors into the shoulders of the peak tourism season and help our smaller centres get a slice of tourism’s economic benefits. New initiatives, like the launch of the Air New Zealand International Hawke’s Bay Marathon and our partnership with Northland stakeholders on our latest inflight safety video Summer of Safety are good examples of how we can affect positive change for our regions. 

Both of these examples are the result of strong partnerships between industry, suppliers and community; both recognise the interplay between the social, economic and environmental. And it’s more of these collaborative efforts I believe will shape a stronger future for our company and New Zealand.

To read more about Air New Zealand’s sustainability efforts, visit airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability