Making Flying Matter with Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines / Kirk Myers

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Alaska Airlines is serious about sustainability. For the past two years, the airline has ranked 1st for North American aviation on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), a coveted honor.

To Alaska Airlines, sustainability is more than an environmental or financial decision. Even as more airlines invest in fuel efficient fleets, cut in-flight waste, and adopt “green” biofuels, Alaska Airlines stands out for its commitment to sustainability.

Kirk Myers, Director of Sustainability at Alaska Airlines, shared how the company has integrated sustainability into the business to drive innovation, engage employees, and have a meaningful impact on the people and places Alaska Airlines serves—all 115 destinations and 44 million passengers (in 2018 alone).

Our favorite insights from Kirk’s episode include:

  • To authentically advance social and business impact, balance hearts and minds. “It’s important to remember that everybody in your organization is a holistic person and has a business mind and an amazing heart of values,” said Kirk. This has helped Alaska Airlines succeed in making sustainability the heart of the business.
  • While more companies are taking a shared value approach to non-profit partnerships, many remain transactional. Alaska Airlines has taken shared value to the extremes by presenting social challenges to two key partners—and then solving them, together. Lonely Whale worked with Alaska Airlines to drastically reduce in-flight waste, including positioning Alaska to be the first airline to eliminate plastic straws. With Neste, Alaska Airlines explored opportunities for the ongoing use of sustainable aviation jet fuels.
  • You might think an airline’s greatest assets are its planes. But as a service industry, employees are as important as the fleet, if not more. Some of Alaska Airlines’ most innovative sustainability programs have come from employees—such as a recent initiative to reduce in-flight waste. When employees have that level of investment in their organization (literally, in this case, thanks to Alaska Airlines’ profit-sharing), customers notice.

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