The world we live in does a pretty good job at self- destructing and repairing itself. A number of technological creations and the rise of the industrial era accelerated the consumption of materials and energy at a concerning rate. Businesses have conducted operations with little regard for the natural environment causing environmental consequences that if ignored Will have irreversible negative results for our planet.
The aviation industry is no exception and since its deregulation it has continuously grown really to its negative effects to the environment. “The 1978 Aviation Deregulation Act brought an end to all regulation of the domestic aviation market in the US” (Gosling & Puma, 2009). The deregulation of the US civil aviation influenced other markets such as the European and Southeast Asian markets. Furthermore, it allowed the qualities of a free market to take place lowering fare prices, causing the demand for air travel to catapult to unprecedented heights.
These business growth brought profitability while simultaneously giving rise to a number of ethical issues in the aviation industry. Although the aviation industry is showing great progress towards social responsibility, it will take the industry executive echelon, environmental groups, and society all together to act in concert in order to achieve sustainability, set realistic standards, and bring about constructive changes. The main purpose of this paper is to utilize a number of ethical concepts and data to study the industry effects on the natural environment and the actions taken by major airlines such as Delta and American Airlines.
Climate change, air pollution, energy conservation, aviation related emissions, ND ozone depletion have been the subject of numerous academic and scientific researches. The aforementioned issues not only affect the natural environment, but can affect a business social survivability if not properly managed. After all, if we don’t take these issues seriously, there will be no world to inhabit and no travelers to transport. The aviation industry is no stranger to the concept of sustainability and is increasingly taking a number of measures to ensure the wellbeing future generations while meeting today’s needs and wants.
The aviation industry as a whole has a special interest on the topic of climate change or as most commonly known Global Warming. Former Vice President AH Gore enlightened the public and made this issue a real and not so distant crisis. Seating at the top of the industries most affected by the potential by products of global warming is the aviation industry. Some studies show that “aviation contributes a small but growing proportion to this problem, less than 4% of man-made atmospheric emissions” (RESURRECTION, 2014).
However, unlike the most traditional forms of emissions, aircraft flying in the upper atmosphere could have a ore significant effect on climate change. The aviation industry is directly responsible for contributing to this reluctant and damaging effects. It does this through condensation trails (contrails), greenhouse gas emissions above and below 1000 feet, and water vapors that prevent solar heat trapped inside the atmosphere to return to space. Weather plays a role in aviation affecting flight routes, efficiency, and demand for travel.
Hurricanes and natural catastrophes affect the demand for traveling to key tourist destinations, affecting the industry s financial performance. Several government and environmental agencies are creating and considering a number of policies to reduce aircraft emissions, fuel consumption, and the formation of contrails, just to name a few. Some of these policies results are inconclusive at the moment, but the industry is slowly making progress by focusing in known alternatives to improve fuel efficiency and reduce the climate changing effects.
Airlines are employing technology to improve flight routes and calculate load weights accurately to reduce the amount of fuel required for specific flights. Additionally, airlines are replacing old and small aircraft with egger and more efficient ones in an effort to reduce the number of flights needed to meet public demands and to conserve fuel. Other measures take place at airports where the air traffic control aspect is being improved to minimize aircraft engines idling times at gates and to streamline the arrival and departure Of flights.
In addition airports are enforcing ground support equipment strategic usage and promoting the taxing of aircraft single engine to reduce fuel expenditure. Today’s industry’ is capable of calculating the greenhouse gas footprint generated by engine combustions and the overall mission of toxins and particles into the atmosphere. One of the ways a corporation’s carbon footprint can be mitigated is by buying carbon offset. This solution allows airlines to calculate the greenhouse emissions from their operations and purchase enough carbon offsets to balance or “zero out’ their carbon emissions.
Today, most airlines have some sort of partnership with companies that sell carbon offsets. Examples include Continental Airlines collaboration with Sustainable Traveling International and Delta Airlines partnership with the Conservation Fund. Others like British Airways and Delta offer voluntary offsets to their passengers upon the purchase of their flight, informing them of the carbon emission related to their specific flights (Hope, 201 1, p. 243).
Closely related to climate change and another ethical issue in the aviation industry that impacts the natural environment is air pollution. “Air pollution leads to acid rain, global warming, smog, the depletion of the ozone layer and other serious conditions” (Carroll & Bucktooth, 2012). Aviation contributions to the air pollution issues derives from the emissions Of carbon dioxide and oxides of nitrogen which “undergo a complex series Of Heimlich reactions in the atmosphere that increase the 03 levels” (Hope, 201 1, p. 247).
Airlines are being required to account for their greenhouse gas emissions. Most major airlines have embraced the concept of business transparency and are conducting external ethical audits in addition to reporting their efforts via corporate social responsibility reports. “This can have an impact on several [costs] including the cost of compliance, indirect operating costs associated with any additional charges, financing cost of equipment upgrades -? and increased fuels cost is fuel suppliers are required o account for emissions from their products” (Gosling & Puma, 2009).
Other pollutants not as damaging as CA, but with implications in climate change and air pollution are water vapors and sulfide particles emitted form aircraft engines. A secondary threat of the aviation industry to the global climate is known as persistent contrails. “At 33,000 to 35,000 feet in altitude, the only clouds naturally present are cirrus clouds” (Hopper 201 1). This is also the altitude at which some jetliners fly, releasing water vapors that form contrails which eventually given certain humidity and temperatures form Russ clouds.
Contrails heat trapping nature makes them known contributors to global warming and should not be ignored. Unfortunately, the corrective methods for mitigating the formation of cirrus clouds would require aircraft to fly at lower altitudes which could create an increase in energy use and an increase in air traffic, clobbering the air space. Contrary to cirrus clouds that happen at very high altitude levels, another significant air pollution happens at ground level. A huge source of local pollution and volatile organic compounds are emitted by aircraft sitting at idle waiting at the gates or in line ROR to take off.
A good example is John F. Kennedy airport in New York City which is considered the number one source of volatile organic compounds and Laggardly is considered one of the main sources of oxide of nitrogen. According to Hope (2011 ) “30 of the nation’s 50 largest airports are in ozone entertainment areas, where air quality is considered substandard for human health” (p. 258). Yet aircraft are not the only source of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and the like. The ground support equipment used to support airport operations account for a substantial percentage of carbon emission at ground level.
These Knox emissions pose a threat to the natural environment as well as to the human health of the citizens of surrounding counties. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has established collective goals setting the standard for the entire aviation industry to reach for. They include: Improve CA efficiency by an average of 1. 5 percent per year, measured on an intensity basis, through 2020. Achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020 onward. Reduce aviation net carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050, as compared to 2005 levels.
Unfortunately, Delta’s 2013 Corporate Responsibility Report fleeted four notices of violations and five non-compliances, accounting for a continuous decrease in violation, but more than a 50 percent increase in non- compliances when compared to the previous two years. Additionally, “since 2005, Delta has reduced its annual emissions – by 7. 9 million metric tons, a 17. 2 percent reduction over eight years. [Yet], on an absolute basis, Delta saw a 550,000 metric ton (1. 5 percent) increase of carbon emissions in 2013 compared to 2012 due to more flying’ (Delta, 2014).
That said, Delta’s efforts to improve CA efficiency by an average of 1. 5 percent per year has not been et for the last two years. The Airline is in the process of replacing part of its fleet with more modern and efficient aircrafts. A competitor who is actually leading the way in such effort is American Airlines. “MAR Corporation made history in 2011 with the largest aircraft order the industry has ever seen. The 460 new planes ordered from Boeing and Airbus will dramatically reduce costs, as they are more fuel-efficient” (American Airlines, 2014).
The new aircraft will enhance the corporation’s efforts towards becoming a leader in the environmental movement in the aviation industry. Other positive steps awards social and ethical responsibility is obvious with the Airline’s implementation of a comprehensive climate change strategy that is revised annually considering “the integration of climate change policy, legislative, and regulatory risks” (Delta, 2014). Another noticeable attempt is its contributions to an Airport Cooperative Research Program that addresses climate change risks at airports and helps develop policies and ways to improve the existing climate change policy.
Furthermore, all major airlines are using some form of cause-relating marketing as a philanthropic strategy to improve their social standing by inking their impact on the environment with preventive and noble actions. For example in 201 3 Delta implemented a carbon emission calculator that informs travelers of the carbon impact of their flights and gives them the option to choose which project they want the offset to go to. Delta has undertaken the ROI Bravo Climate Action Project in Belize and the Clinch Valley Conservation Forestry Program in Virginia.
In essence, both projects attempt to mend the damage from the carbon emissions caused by Delta flights by purchasing and protecting thousands of threaten or vital acres of rooster land, reducing the overall effects greenhouse gas emissions. If not properly managed, the environmental issues surrounding the aviation industry or business as a whole will quickly transition from significant to severe. These natural environmental issues are receiving a high degree of attention from society, forcing business to develop and implement parameters to minimize the harm throughout the life cycle of these issues.
The steady growth on travel demand has challenged the industry s strategic plans and goals to minimize and offset its carbon footprint. This increase in revelers is directly proportional to an increase in air pollution, greenhouse gases emissions, climate change, and energy consumption. The major players in the aviation industry are achieving economic success and reporting profitable years while adopting sustainable business practices that conserve the use of natural resources, improve energy efficiency, and attempt to restore the environment.
In closing, we can all agree that protecting the natural environment is the right thing to do! Our planet is depleting and the world’s population is growing at a pace much faster than previously predicted by scientists. As today’s corporations are pressured with providing shareholders with financial success, equally important is achieving sustainability. All the financial success in the world will have no value in a lifeless planet – we failed to help.
Although the aviation industry is moving in the right direction, it has a long way to go before it can consider itself to be operating by the spirit of the law. We have the social and ethical responsibility to establish the standards and practices that will restore the natural environment and will provide future generations with a healthy planet where business can responsibly thrive for generations to come.