Corporate Social Responsibility - Francine Carron - skeyes

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Posted by Vincent Lambercy

Welcome to one more episode of Radar Contact. On this podcast episode, we will discuss once again a completely different aspect of ATM, which is what we try to do here, and give a 360 degrees view of the field. And this episode will be about corporate social responsibility. And for this, my guest is Francine Carron, who is corporate Social Responsibility program manager at skeyes. Francine, welcome to Radar Contact.

Hello. Hi Vincent. Thank you for having me here.

Thank you very much. Just to make my life a bit easier, I hope you don't mind if I say CSR instead of Corporate Social Responsibility cause it's, it's a mouthful. And before we start, can you just introduce yourself to our guests? Explain us a bit what we've been doing before joining skeyes. What has your career been so far and what it was like to join skeyes?

Yes. So as Vincent said, hi, I'm Francine Carron. I'm the corporate social responsibility manager of skeyes, the Belgian air navigation service provider. I'm also one of the EU diversity transport ambassadors. And next to working at skeyes, I'm working on my PhD in business economics at university at Brussels, which focuses on sustainability within air navigation service providers. It's a PhD by publication, which means that it's, I have to publish a series of articles in reputable academic journals. And the concept of the PhD is a collection of essays that map the journey of sustainability of the ANSPs operating on the European continent. So I've actually already covered the academic research of sustainability and air traffic management and I'm using sustainability here interchangeably with csr as CSR is basically the strategy and sustainability is the outcome. I've benchmarked the ANSPs in Europe and I'm currently working on a paper on safety and sustainability when I'm not working at, so writing on my PhD.
I also am the chairwoman of an NGO called She Did It, which is the largest incubator of female entrepreneurs with diverse roots in Belgium. So how did I actually get to CSR and sustainability? First of all, I studied international affairs, political communications, and global management. Now these masters only on its own define what CSR and sustainability means. People, planet, and profit. I started my career 18 years ago at the United Nations in Liberia. And when I graduated I wanted to change the world. I still want to change the world. Like most of the new generation, generation Z I'm not part of them, but they have the same mindset. So I worked on development projects with the millennial development goals in mind, the MDGs. And why am I talking about the MDGs? Because it's a part of CSR sustainability. Today we have the sustainable development goals and when I was working at the un, I used to think why are only governments contributing to these goals?
Why are not private people are private industries. Why is not everybody contributing to these goals? And actually today everyone is doing that and it's been part of CSR programs are built on that sustainability programs are built on that today. But that wasn't enough for me. I wanted to make a larger impact and I thought, hmm, I'm going to enter the world of multinationals because I thought the private sector has more money, they can contribute much larger, larger. So I have a 18 year career path of all aspects of sustainability in terms of people, planet, and profit. I worked for a CSR program of BNP Paribas bank, which set up a microfinance agency to find support entrepreneurs with diverse roots to make them bankable. I worked on labor union rights for informal workers all over Africa for the Belgian liberal trade union.
I assisted governments in projects to empower female entrepreneurs in Morocco. I developed ecological friendly tourists programs for tea farmers in Rwanda. I worked on sustainable real estate projects for Jones Lang LaSalle and Procter and Gamble. I did CSR consultancies in India. I worked for a conglomerate diamond mines. So I've have experience in all the little aspects that you need to have in sustainability actually in Africa, USA, Asia and Europe. And that is 20 years ago when I graduated from university. That's what I want to do, wanted, that's what I wanted to do. And there were only a few vacancies out there now today it's raining sustainability vacancies. But I wonder, do people really understand what it is? And I want to explain that today as well. And do they have the experience of having walked in all the facets to understand the concept?
So now how did I get to skeyes? Well, as you can hear, sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and equity have been my personal values and making impact by launching program has been the red thread to throughout my career basically. So I wanted to work in a very challenging environment and an environment where it was much more difficult to create a sustainable impact, actually, actually a sector that scored low on sustainability and CSR and seeing everyone yelling at aviation from the sideline, I wanted to enter the game and lead a program that brings about change. And that's how I,

Wow, I'm, I'm really impressed. Brilliant career path and a very challenging step indeed, probably. And I'd like to start with a very naive, a bit provocative question. Basically ANSPs are here to keep aircraft separated and keep the flow of traffic safe and efficient. Now some say safe, efficient and sustainable. But basically if I put myself in the shoes of traffic controllers, why should I care? Why should organizations and ANSPs be concerned by anything CSR? I mean they're here for safety. What is your take on that and what kind of reactions do you get?

Well that's a very good question and that's a question that I aim to answer in my PhD as well. And many people, like you said, will say, ANSPs should only focus on safety. Safety is the number one priority and that's it. And just go away with all this other stuff. And indeed the core business of an ANSP is safety. Safety is their license to operate and safety first. But with the public opinion, breeding on the neck of aviation and the media making a theme as if aviation is the sole culprit of climate change, sustainability is becoming the license to operate next to safety. So that means that there will be in the future, two licenses to operate safety and sustainability. So just to keep it simple, look at it the other way. If we don't work on sustainability, would there still be any skies to keep safe?
Global temperatures are rising, extreme weather conditions are happening. If we don't save the world today, there will be no world tomorrow. And if there is no world tomorrow, who are we going to provide safety for? There is no people, there's no customers. So if we want to continue providing safety, we must work on sustainability because safety guarantees the now and sustainability guarantees the future. So in the previous context, I'm mostly talking about environmental sustainability, but we must also work on social sustainability if we do not work on that. And we already see that in the industry with staff shortages, there will be no staff to execute the safety. So again, in all future scenarios, we must work on sustainability to keep the sky safe and to be clear, there will be no safety without sustainability in the future. And that is actually the forward thinking approach this industry must have. So, and to take it one step further isn't working on safety, also not working on sustainability if the context is protecting and safeguarding our people. So the sector was already working on sustainability in terms of safety without knowing it because there's no clear understanding of what sustainability actually means.

You said something that was very interesting to me, you say we need and we must work on that and we must be better on that. Which brings me to one little question here. How far are we? Do you think we are a good industry or we are like a horrible industry? And I think there is sometimes a bit of a bias. I've been in that industry myself for close to 25 years. I still think aviation is sexy. Air traffic control is interesting. It's appealing in the sense that it's something everybody wants to work in. But I guess this is probably not the view of the younger people or are we just at a point where we're horrible people polluting the environment and doing nothing good?

Well you're saying that everybody wants to work in the sector. That is not true. That's probably because you've been in the sector so long. So people nowadays do not want to work in aviation because it's a polluting sector. But the media, like I said before, has something to do with that. Aviation is polluting 3%. But if you look at for example, road transport, they're polluting 28%. So yet of the 3% pollution that aviation is creating just the same level as maritime. It is 90% of the time that aviation is in the media. So aviation has lost the battle with the media because they failed to communicate what they were actually working on and being at skies. I see, even when I arrived, when there was no CSR program, they were already working on CSR and sustainability. It was there already. And even safety is technically sustainability.
So for the industry needs to communicate better on what they're doing. They are very late to the table. Let's say on working on CSR and sustainability, there's private companies that have been working on this aspect for 30 or 40 years. But the difference is that now that it's here in the sector, it is moving at a very fast rate, a very rapid rate. And that's a rate that I haven't seen in 18 years. It is going very fast and I think the pandemic has actually something to do with it as well. All of a sudden, certain people have the time to work on this aspect. So let's say that sustainability CSR is definitely a silver lining of the pandemic and it hasn't slowed down. There's other items. For example, there's the CANSO green ATM label that has come out.
This is also something that will spur sustainability and CSR in the industry. It is forcing, well it's a voluntary accreditation of course a certification. But once you enter and the focus is on governance and on environment, once you enter, it paves your path to your road to net zero so you will know what to do. EASA is also working on such a label per say, sustainability or an environmental label. I'm not sure what it's going to be, but these are all actions the industry is taking to level up with all the other ones that are already working on it. And what can the industry actually teach others is that this is an industry where all high reliability organizations, so implementing sustainability in high reliability organizations is pretty new. So we can actually show other HROs how to do that. So I would say to young people, do like me come and join and bring about the change that is required.

That's a very powerful message and I like there is hope into that. Not like that's a battle that is lost already. So thanks a lot for that. Now when you go to your colleagues at skeyes, and we will go later in the kind of actions you take, but what is their reaction? Are they like, oh, I'm not interested, leave me alone? Or are they willing to join and push together with you?

Yes. When I joined skeyes, people were actually very positive and very happy that there would be some type of new change, bringing a new wind shake things around a little bit, be disruptive. I was, how do you say, welcomed very positively. The program, we have a lot of supporters, there's a lot of people who want to contribute to sustainability and who are actually already contributing to sustainability in their private lives is not only the younger generation we see that wants to be better and do better for everybody, but everybody would like to have some type of other impact that they can create through working. So we have a CSR ambassadors organization where people can voluntarily join and come up with initiatives that better aviation, but that better the world in general, actually.

Now looking at what skeyes is doing in term of CSR, the first thing I would think of is basically try to give aircraft better trajectories, more direct continuous distance, more smooth. But there is probably more than that. I mean I can think of monitoring aircraft noise a bit better. But also things outside of really managing aircraft, like do you run on renewable energy? Do you have better waste management? What does your scope covers? Is it all of it? Is it just part of that? Is it more operational technical or is it just the whole company from bottom to top?

No, so we have actually separated it into CSR and environment. So environment is working on flight optimization trajectories. They are managed by our environmental department. Of course we work very closely with them because there's plenty of synergies. And I also believe that everybody's working in CSR needs to really understand the industry, this aspect of flying and environmentally flying so that we can able to think forward. So that's a very important aspect, but I do not manage that. What I do manage it is the CSR program and that is the focus on governance, on environment, on employees, customers and society. So to make it simple, we divided those aspects into three pillars. Those three pillars are sustainable, engaged, and shared. So the sustainable pillar of our CSR program covers energy consumption, renewable energy, CO2 footprint calculations, sustainable procurement, green mobility and waste management.
For all these aspects, we have KPIs so that we can reduce our emissions. We also have a KPI for example, to reduce our green our vehicles and turn them into a green fleet. We have a program for installing electric chargers for these vehicles on site. We also have a program for installing bicycle chargers on site. We also work a lot on waste management to reduce the employee waste to reduce food loss. We work with NGOs to give life to our IT equipment that we no longer need or our radio equipment or radio equipment actually went to Antarctica. And so we always try to find a solutions so that for our path to net zero. Now in the pillar engaged, we cover wellbeing and mobility at work, employee involvement and diversity. We've seen that in the past years. We have a positive trend now in employee satisfaction.
There's also a reduction of stress related illnesses and absenteeism. There's also an increase and of course that was purnsed by the pandemic of tele workable days. And there's also now an increase in the use of sustainable transport. And then in the third pillar we cover in the shared pillar, we cover innovations, partnerships and transparencies. In this section we provide drone services. So we are also look to introduce digital towers and this section is actually to promote CSR related projects with key stakeholders. So there's a drone project going on that transports medical equipment or medical products to pharmacies with drones.

That's a lot of different aspects and I'd like to touch that from a slightly different perspective as well. You explain your career path at the beginning, working in lot of different domains. Do you think there is a lot of things that can be transposed from your past experience of other domains into ATM? Or is the industry so different that we have to make our own CSR path?

No, it's CSR sustainability. That's, that's why I explained in the beginning what I have done because I took that experience here. And as you can see, the CSR program, it's a lot. So you need to have experience in all these facets. You need to have experience in diversity in facilities. And I can work in many different industries, but now I'm bitten by aviation so I'm not leaving, hence the focus of my PhD also be ATM. So I've really found my passion, my sector, but sustainability is really something that you can implement everywhere. It's a business model and it needs to be holistically approached and it needs to be ingrained in all the departments. Basically at the end, sustainability should be everywhere and I should no longer be there. That's basically what it should be.

So I guess reversing the question there is also nothing very specific to ATM in term of CSR that can profit to the outside because it's that multi-faceted program, right?

No, what ATM can bring. And here I will go back to the fact that it's the high reliability organization, the specific, how do you say, the fact that it's a unique industry, the fact that it's safety is the number one priority, it is still a bit different. So you need also a clear understanding of how the industry works, how safety operates within the organization. And that's what we can teach others to combine safety and sustainability. And that is a completely new thing. And I can say now, after three years to other organizations specialize of course in working using, having safety as the number one priority. I'm your expert, but this is really, really unique. And I think that in the media this needs to be discussed also why it took longer for aviation to get there. It is not as simple.

Do you want to elaborate a bit on that "why"? Do you mind?

Yes. So in terms of the processes in other organization, you can turn around processes much faster than you can do in this industry because you always have to do a safety assessment and make sure that there is no impact on safety in other industries, you won't have to do that. For example, it's, it's not part of their core business. So here every step that you need to change, every process that you take, even in terms of facilities and you have a radar equipment for example, all these things need to be double checked. There needs to be a sustainability assessment, something which you won't have to do in other, I mean a safety assessment, something that you don't have to do in other organizations. Even if you want to say for example now I'm talking about more into the aviation side site, you can just change a flight plan quickly, quickly doing a green route here and there and be done with it. You cannot do that. There's processes for that. There needs to be double checks and that's something other organizations want have to do that who don't have safety as their core business.

That's very true indeed. Now looking at CSR and going deeper into that, what aspect of it is obviously diversity and integration and one such part of D&I is gender equality and looking at that, I think ATM and aviation still have progresses to do to put it nicely. So I just wanted to ask you, what is your take on this?

Well actually this week we studied a similar case at the EU transport ambassador diversity event at EUROCONTROL. First of all, I believe the challenge doesn't lie in recruiting young women in terms of gender and diversity. There are plenty of best practices out there on how to do this. And the EU has a great diversity toolkit. For example, the biggest challenge for the industry lies in retention. Retention of young women, how to keep them in the workforce. So first of all, there needs to be a cultural change. And that might not only be for aviation, work life was never created for women and women just had to fit in if they wanted to have careers. But now is the time for the system to fit women. So it begins with a new mindset, a new corporate culture with zero tolerance towards discrimination of all sorts.
So this means teaching people how to talk inclusively. There should be no room for toxic workplaces. Generation Z is entering the workforce and they're not tolerating any of it and they're right, they should not. So the workplace itself has to transform and sustainable. And on a personal level, you said the numbers are still low in terms of diversity and indeed the numbers in terms of gender and all other aspects of diversity are on the lower side. So again, I would say to any young woman who wants to join the industry, be disrupt, be disruptive, join us, I recommend them all to come working aviation and bring about the change that we as women desire. But I also like to mention one aspect that I've noticed in the diversity discussion within aviation, the gender debate takes up too much pace in the diversity debate. We need to view diversion, diversity, inclusion and equity from an intersectional perspective and allow the other aspects of diversity to be part of that too.
So let's not forget that these other elements such as religion, disabilities, ethnicities, LGBTQI+ this one, you have to adapt social status and so on. So we have to be careful because it's becoming the debate on aviation pollution itself. Aviation debate, 3% emission, 90% in the media. Same with diversity. Diversity is a very large debate. So let's not overpower it only with the focus of women. And why are we doing this again? Because it's easy. It's easy to attack aviation and it's easy to work on gender because it's very visible and the change, the changes to make are a bit easier. So let's not go for the easy way out and also keep this diversity debate very inclusive and include everyone that makes part of it.

We should have done a video of that because you put so much energy in and passion into that. I hope that listeners can get that over the audio. And let me ask you to give a tip and if someone who is not fitting the stereotypical person working in aviation right now would join you say, you said woman, but we can make it wider and I learned that from you, we have to make it not just on gender but on everything. And you say you should come and you should be that person that will disrupt us. Agree with that? Yes. What would be your tips to that person to join? Is it like simply there to start and everything will go fine or are there more tips you would like to give to these people to join us?

First of all, they need to get past the recruiting process. So that means the organization itself needs to become inclusive. Let's say we're all within a t m inclusive organization. The person applies and gets hired. Of course there's always going to be obstacles, but these obstacles, if you really want to bring about change, should not change your mind. It shouldn't stop them. It's not going to be easy. And especially being the first ones, let's say of a different religion or a different ethnicity or a different sexual orientation who are very open about it, they still might encounter problems even within an inclusive culture, but the organization should make sure that it's zero tolerant to towards that so that the person can feel safe, not only physically safe but also psychologically safe. And once we have achieved that, it'll only go better.

Thank you very much for that. I really like your energy, your passion and under the message you bring over. Now to wrap up, I'd like to ask you our standard final question. Which evolution do you see in CSR and ATM in five years? And I guess you will have a lot of very precise ideas on that and later on in 50 years from now to go more widely.

Okay, I really like that question and I saw that you all at FoxATM also answered that question that was very interesting. So how do I see it? I foresee significant changes in the next five years in terms of CSR and sustainability. I believe the sector will move from infancy and I'm saying infancy because there's aim fees who don't have CSR sustainability programs yet. There are some that are very mature. And then there're the ones that are average. So in general, let's just say infancy. So within five years due to cancel green ATM, new labels coming out, we also have the step-by step guide. I was chairwoman of the ATM ANS, environmental transparency working group on which we developed a step-by-step guide to reduce your carbon footprint. All these things will help ANS speeds to start up their programs or even change their programs a little bit.
So we're constantly working on an exchange of best practices and those who aren't up, up on mature level to bring them up with us. So in the next five years, I believe we will all be at similar levels within the ANSPs working on the European continent. Now in 2073, 73 you said that means we're the past the 2050 mark. That means that Europe is already a carbon neutral continent. That means that aviation has also reached the mark. So we're, we've done our work, we've, by that time, we've probably already achieved the 17 sustainable development goals as well. So we should be living in an equal sustainable world free of discrimination, I believe, and the implementation of the business model, CSR sustainability, ESG should be complete. Like my job is no longer there. Sustainability will be embedded such as safety. There will be no longer that much talks about sustainability because it's guaranteed.
It is there just like safety. We guarantee it, it's there. I also believe in terms of ATM, there will be a completely differently designed airspace. The airspace that we exist today, I don't think it will look anything alike. I believe that there will only be environmentally friendly routes, no other routes would be possible. I think that European, the single European sky by then is also implemented Europe. I think that Europe would be similar to the f na one large ATM operating through many different airspace blocks. Free route airspace will be so common that it's something that we won't even discuss anymore. We probably look back and say why wasn't that there in the first place? And I believe that ATM will be fully embedded and I hope so with artificial intelligence controllers will no longer be controllers, they will be the managers of air traffic that direct artificial intelligence to fly only optimal green routes. I believe their airlines also only fly optimal green routes because the government will impose that. I also think that blockchain will enter the industry and will be very developed at that time. So that safety is very transparent and all movements are recorded in the blockchain and that there wouldn't be any further discussions on that. So to conclude, I think we would live in a very fair, environmental friendly world assisted by artificial intelligence of any sort. The sustainability, sustainability work by 2073 would be done. And that means that humanity has survived this crisis. Right.

Francine, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today. I really appreciate that. Wish you best of luck with your work and the PhD and let's talk soon.

Thank you for the interview Vincent. And I would also like to thank the executive comity of skeyes for backing the CSR program so well and the board of directors for keeping that sustainability vision at skeyes. Thank you.