Airbus Gives Wings To The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
A leading player in the aerospace sector, Airbus sees sustainability as a growth opportunity and driver of innovation.
If aviation were a country, it would rank 21st globally in size by GDP. The industry supports 62.7 million jobs worldwide, and is an important precursor for growth in other sectors and a catalyst for innovation. Airbus itself employs around 130,000 people and is behind many important technologies that have improved quality of life around the world, including advanced materials, fly-by-wire and autopilots.
Airbus has been a signatory to the UN Global Compact since 2003, and is committed to 8 SDGs that are directly relevant to its business, among them Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure. The targets of this goal include promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialiation, enhancing scientific research and supporting domestic technology development. Furthermore, the Airbus Foundation, the company’s vehicle for corporate philanthropy, was set up over a decade ago.
Explaining Airbus’ approach, Andrea Debbané, Head of Responsibility & Sustainability, says: “You need to have sustainable business practices and a sustainable market; these are growth opportunities for a company and for society as a whole. They also drive innovation and creativity.”
Airbus’ commitment to innovation addresses some of society’s most critical issues, from mobility to climate change. As aviation represents around 2% of global manmade CO2 emissions, Airbus recognises its role in reducing the sector’s environmental footprint and in 2008 committed to the Air Transport Action Group’s CO2 emission goals. Progress is being made by delivering aircraft such as the A350 XWB, 25% more efficient than the previous generation aircraft.
“The utopia for us is to achieve zero-emission aviation. That’s a very serious target and we’re pushing to try and make that happen,” underlines Gwenn Llewellyn, Airbus General Manager, Electrification.
The company has set up a comprehensive innovation infrastructure to focus on R&D areas that it believes will play a key role in providing vital infrastructural solutions in the future. These include urban air mobility solutions to address the challenges of increasing urbanisation; electric and hybrid-electric propulsion; the EU’s global navigation satellite system, Galileo; and GEO-information services to support sustainable farming or forest management.
Airbus’ satellites also play a key role in monitoring and understanding climate change, for example via the high-value geospatial information provided by the Pléiades and SPOT Earth observation satellites. Airbus also plays a crucial role in constructing the Sentinel satellites that are part of the Copernicus programme to establish a European capacity for Earth observation.
Airbus is a global partner for sustainable development, working with numerous stakeholders to pursue innovation and answer society’s needs. Start-ups and Airbus intrapreneurs come together in Airbus BizLab, a global network of aerospace accelerators to speed up the transformation of innovative ideas into valuable and viable businesses.
BizLab attracs start-ups from across the world. “For smaller startup companies there are a lot of hurdles in bringing their product into the aerospace industry. The purpose of being part of the programme is to bring their ideas to life in the context of this industry,” says Stefan Holst, Airbus BizLab Supervisor
Furthermore, the Airbus Foundation has developed a reputation for being a valued partner to the humanitarian community, offering support and services during emergency response and disaster relief situations. Airbus now plans to increase the missions carried out with humanitarian organisations while ramping up work with first responders to apply its expertise and technologies such as big data and deep learning to concrete humanitarian projects – another example of innovating for a better world.