By 2013 it had become increasingly apparent that the sustainable development path of SEA required a change in outlook – a “raising of the bar” beyond a simple breakdown of actions and measures introduced for compliance or reputational purposes and delivered in a simple format.
The present Sustainability Report achieves this objective, clearly outlining the highlights for the last three-year period of the SEA Group.
The document re-affirms the profile of a company which, among other matters, significantly reduced energy consumption and relative CO2 emissions, whose airports today rely on a fleet of service vehicles powered one-third electrically, which has invested euro 300 million improving the quality and eco-compatibility of its infrastructure over the last three years, which has stepped-up its waste separation activity, which has year after year reduced employee accident rates, which displays a very high level of customer satisfaction at its airports, which has distributed a value of approx. Euro 145 million to its shareholders and has maintained throughout the years its social investment in the region.
Over the period in which SEA has achieved these significant results, considerable difficulties have emerged to challenge its development.
These challenges have highlighted the need to take greater steps to ensure such development takes place in a climate of increased transparency with stakeholders, understanding that our shared development is affected in differing ways, which in turn have a knock-on effect on the company.
Firstly, we think of the Malpensa Master Plan, a project focusing on the infrastructure which the airport must have in place by 2030 to meet the traffic estimates forecast for this target date.
A disparate opposition has formed against this project – while awaiting the definitive ruling of the VIA Commission, currently frozen until the end of 2013 – comprising airlines, regional civic committees, political parties, local institutions and environmental groups.
The Master Agreement, under which the regulatory approved aviation tariff system for the coming 10 years has been established and which links the calculation of fees due to SEA from the airlines to the delivery of an infrastructural investment plan and the reaching of specific passenger service quality objectives and environmental impact reduction objectives, has been contested in the Lazio and Lombardy Regional Administrative Courts by the airline representative federations.
These issues bring into focus the correctness of highly structured and complex processes, such as those concerning the examples above, which have a significant impact on the time commitment, costs and results of the business planning activities.
For SEA it is therefore fundamentally necessary – and poses a significant challenge for the coming years – to establish and present the public interest profile of its business objectives.
The management of SEA has demonstrated its understanding of this challenge, as highlighted by a series of interviews carried out by ISTUD as part of the project concerning the strengthening of the sustainability culture within SEA, begun in 2012 and still in progress.
The management of SEA agree that sustainability should be considered a potential strategic element which can increase competitiveness. But how? How is it possible to avoid categorising sustainability concerns as bothersome and redundant which absorb resources, which weigh upon and lengthen the decision making processes, which raise costs, which increase commitments and which may distract from the focus on core activities, to however come to understand them as catalysts for the reaching of the business objectives themselves? Please consider the following as a useful starting point: in a highly complex and interdependent business environment, is it still possible to plan our development path based on the same spectrum of procedural, regulatory and technical variables as before or is it necessary to change something? This is the contact point between the challenges of business and the approach towards stakeholder management.
Is it necessary to ask ourselves what can be gained – and the emphasis is placed on “gained”, before considering ethics and community support – from opening the decision making process on company development projects to stakeholders? The experiences of the major airports across the globe (Hong Kong, Melbourne, Amsterdam and London) in relation to dialogue with and the prior involvement of stakeholders in significant infrastructural expansion projects highlight that the benefit which may be generated by an individual actor is increasingly affected by the contemporaneous generation of benefit for the overall system itself.
If this latter is neglected, the former also becomes at risk. The recent declaration of the Italian Government to consider with interest the model of public debate in France to promote engagements with local actors on large public works is also a sign of the times.
Positive examples are already evident in Italy on how an open and transparent approach to decisions on large projects may bring advantages not just to the regions, but also to the proponents.
This however would be of little benefit without a significant shift in the behaviour and attitude also of stakeholders.
Constructive dialogue, for example, is not built from questioning the role of an airport such as Malpensa on the socio-economic development of its hinterland and on Lombardy, or by rejecting its expansionary prerogatives. Distorting the employment impact or the contribution of its emissions to regional pollution levels does not lay the basis for a proper assessment of the development prospects of one of the most important economic drivers of the entire Lombardy region.
A simplistic NIMBY viewpoint or one formed on misplaced environmentalism, which makes a good story for the newspapers in reaction to projects to increase the traffic capacity of a strategic communication hub for Italy, does not contribute to shared development.
The ideas which the management of SEA began to develop in 2012 concerning the need to breathe greater life and establish a more far-reaching vision with regard to sustainability actions may be considered a change in direction which is driven both internally – through a belief that each technical project is not strictly such but possesses also a social dimension and which therefore must be opened to discussion – and by the general public who are called upon to consider that the questions brought to the table cannot be solved by simplistic and rigid solutions.
In a complex system the most rigid solution is often that which over the long term costs the most – for all concerned.