Aviation sector could become leading light in delivering on global sustainability agenda

Global aviation is a driver of sustainable development, bringing together people, businesses and communities and supporting trade and tourism. In fact, safe, reliable, efficient and cost-effective air transport is an essential component of a broader mobility strategy to help achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In a new report ‘Flying in Formation’ released by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) at its Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, it is highlighted that the global aviation sector has a role to play in 15 of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some in small ways and others with much more significant influence.

Supporting the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals is seen as an imperative by governments and aviation businesses the world over and the report provides suggestions for how individual aviation industry organisations can contribute by identifying the specific SDGs that are most appropriate to their own circumstances.

Whilst the SDGs are developed by and for governments, ATAG identifies a number of reasons why companies also need to respond. “Following the SDGs makes good business sense,” says Michael Gill, executive director, ATAG. “Businesses thrive in societies with healthy, prosperous and stable populations, clear rules of engagement and open borders.”

IMAGE – Aviation and the sustainability development goals, highlighting direct relevance to ‘global’ aviationSource: ATAG ‘Flying in Formation’ report

SDGs certainly provide a very convenient template for a business to look at its own sustainability agenda, but Mr Gill notes aviation businesses don’t necessarily need to initiate actions for all 17 SDGs when shaping their own strategy, but they should at least consider them. Whilst there are actions being undertaken across all 17 SDGs by partners in the industry, he says aviation has a major global influence in seven of them and at least some influence in a further eight.

“The leadership role industry is showing on climate change should be used as a model for industry action in other areas. We are a unique sector that has the power to effectively transform the world through partnerships and collaboration,” he adds.

Without fast and efficient mobility, the world we know today would not exist. Transport-enabled trade and modern connectivity have a fundamental role to play in modern lives, in business and beyond. Transport is a key component of meeting the SDGs and aviation offers a unique perspective as while urban mobility – road infrastructure, rail systems, cycling infrastructure and bus networks – are all very

heavily reliant on government intervention and coordinated policy, aviation in many cases is self-sufficient.

IMAGE – More of the aviation and the sustainability development goals, highlighting direct relevance to ‘global’ aviationSource: ATAG ‘Flying in Formation’ report

Aviation is vital for the broader tourism industry as well, with the sector contributing heavily to world economic development. The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates that the sector accounts for one in every 11 jobs and 30% of global services export income. This ATAG report provides a clear snapshot of how aviation currently supports the sustainable development of societies through the prism of the United Nations’ SDGs also affording good examples of how the aviation community – whether that is airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers or others – is already delivering on these goals.

READ MORE: View the full Air Transport Action Group Flying in Formation report.