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Airlines are one of the few industries to have a truly global reach. BA has long been recognised as a champion of corporate social responsibility.
Turnover: £7.56 billion
BA operates a fleet of 291 aircraft to 157 destinations in 76 countries.
BA employs 48,000 people, 80% of whom work in the UK.
BA provides important business links to many of the key financial and business centres of the world, seeing aviation as playing an important role in the development of low income economies, promoting in bound tourism, which offers a significant source of income and employment opportunities, as well as providing connections to the business centres of Europe. Beyond this however, being a good neighbour has always been an important philosophy for BA. It is within this context that poverty issues are addressed.
“Change for Good”
17 of BA’s destinations are classed as low income countries. Within these countries, BA’s approach is largely project based. It also has a partnership with UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund. Now in its tenth year, ‘Change for Good’ raises money through collections of foreign currency from BA customers on board flights. To date, Change for Good has raised over £17 million, funding UNICEF programmes in over 50 countries, often where BA does not operate.
The focus of these programmes from a poverty perspective is youth education, development and education. Mark Haggan, former IT Area Manager, Africa and Indian Ocean, and former Community Relations Officer for British Airways, says that it was the “inherent connection between travel and youth” that has really focused BA’s attention on young people.
UNICEF programmes funded by BA in 2003 included:
- A £250,000 donation to a street children’s and orphans project in Nairobi, Kenya. The money was used to purchase education kits and fund teacher training services.
- A £30,000 donation towards UNICEF’s efforts in post war reconstruction in Iraq, focusing on improving access to water, nutrition, healthcare and education – four of the core tenants of a basic standard of living.
BA in South Africa
Aside from ‘Change for Good’, BA runs programmes of its own, often in partnership with other organisations. BA in South Africa is an example of this multi-sector approach to address poverty issues.
Working with Charlton Athletic Football Club, the Metropolitan Police and Southwark and John Cabot City Technology College, Bristol, BA worked with community leaders in Alexandria Township to design a series of practical workshops, focusing on health, education and citizenship.
The aim of the workshops was to develop and build sustainable links between local business, police and the community. Sport was used as medium to bring the community together, and to this end, Charlton Athletic trained four coaches up to FA level one coaching standard to help facilitate this.
A similar scheme was run with Arsenal football club in Nigeria. Mark Haggan says that these programmes are great for developing the children’s esteem: “to have a world famous football club such as Arsenal show that they care about you means a lot to the kids.”
A further 200 young people were trained by the Met Police and young South African police cadets on a range of activities, including IT, health, education and citizenship.
BA in Nigeria
BA recognised social exclusion problems in the city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Despite being at the centre of Nigeria’s oil industry, much of the money from oil flows directly to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria.
BA realised that many of its travellers to Nigeria were involved in the oil industry, and as a result travelling to Port Harcourt, onward from Lagos where BA operates scheduled flights from Heathrow.
BA therefore arranged to fund a programme in the city to involve school age children - typically excluded youth - to involve them in a centre which helped developed transferable skills, such as art and craft works. The works produced at the centre were sold on, and the funds generated ploughed back in to the centre for further investment into the children’s and centres development.
Not just an overseas thing...
Projects are not exclusively overseas focused. Community investment around the Heathrow hub is indeed particularly important to BA, since it is here that the biggest impact can be made.
Mark suggests that it is in the interests of the company to be a good neighbour: “BA is dependent on the success of West London’s communities. From the hotel staff to the taxi firms who pick up passengers, all have an impact on the company.”
The BA community centre, located in 240 acres of public park land, and next to the corporate HQ, offers educational programmes for local community members, or as Mark puts it: “Access to education and technology for people who wouldn’t normally have it.”
The centres main aim is to provide opportunities for young people and adult learners to develop skills, required for active participation – and inclusion – in community life. Courses are run in marketing, languages and citizenship, amongst other offerings. Unemployed and socially excluded people are especially targeted for learning and education programmes. One example of a project involving the centre and homeless people is a four day programme, run in conjunction with the homeless charity, Foyer, about getting back into work. Two of the attendees at one event, both homeless, were inspired by the workshop and went on to make a documentary using video technology at BA’s headquarters, winning a prize at a national competition in 2003 in the process.
BA recognises that financial sustainability alone cannot ensure long term prosperity, therefore it strongly believes in the importance of loyalty, support and trust of customers, employees and amongst the communities within which it operates.
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© Article 13 2004