Our Journey to Sustainable Development

Cathay Pacific has been enabling our customers to travel well for seven decades. We want to be able to sustain our ability to provide such premium services for years to come. This means, amongst other things, using resources responsibly, being purposeful in reducing the waste we produce, to foster meaningful collaborations, and be single-minded in fulfilling our commitments.

In 1980, Cathay Pacific became one of the first airlines in the world to implement fuel efficiency measures – enabling us to undertake the first nonstop flight from Hong Kong to London. We then implemented these on our long-haul routes beginning with our nonstop flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver in 1982, and subsequently applied this approach throughout our fleet and worldwide routes.

As part of the Swire Group, a statement in 1989 by our honorary life president and former Chairman, Sir Adrian Swire, continues to inspire positive purpose in the company:

“As a Group we should always seek to be ahead of legislation rather than reacting to it: that even if the environmentally “clean” way of doing something is more expensive and therefore on the face of it uneconomic, we should always, regardless of mandatory legislation, have a close look at the overall feasibility of adopting such a practice, both from the point of view of general public good and enlightened self-interest.”

Sir Adrian Swire
Honorary life president and former Chairman

This approach defines what sustainable development means to us – it is about applying long term thinking in the business, doing the right thing by the environment and our stakeholders, which results in long term success and a sustained existence.

Cathay Pacific’s current programme of CSR activities began back in 1991 with the launch of Change for Good, although we already had community activities since the 1970’s, with the purpose of giving back to Hong Kong and to the communities in which we operate.

On employee remuneration, we became one of the first companies in Hong Kong to provide flexible benefit schemes to our employees and formal management training programmes for pilots, engineers and general managers.

In 1996, we became one of the first Hong Kong companies to publish a voluntary publicly available Environmental Report for our stakeholders, which eventually evolved into our first Sustainable Development Report in 2009.

In 2012, with the support of various departments, we launched our Sustainable Development Strategy 20/20 commitments.

Thanks to the concerted effort of our colleagues, we were one of the few airlines and Hong Kong companies to be listed simultaneously in the FTSE4Good, Dow Jones Sustainability Index Asia-Pacific, and the Hang Seng Sustainability Index in 2013. We were also listed as a constituent of the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index Asia ex-Japan category under the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Our journey has been full of challenges. Since 1980, we have experienced our record-breaking profit years and our first profit loss; we have gone through Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS); a number of economic downturns; to record highs in Hong Kong’s economy. Throughout this time, our sustainability commitments matured — from focussing on environmental issues, to beginning to address social issues, to integrating environmental, social and economic issues into our strategy.

This year’s report is testament to our continued efforts in ensuring Cathay Pacific stays on the path to fully embedding the value and practice of sustainability into how we conduct day-to-day business. We have made significant progress, but sustainability issues have become far more complex, the solutions need to be more innovative, and the actions need to be taken more urgently.