Sustainability on board: every little step counts


From vegetarian meals to a better galley layout: at KLM Inflight Services in the Cabin Product & Service Engineering department, all kinds of initiatives arise to fly more sustainably. These often find their way to the cabin, where the cabin crew then have to deal with them directly. However, they often had no idea why things were changing and could not always answer passengers' questions. This is where content strategist and cabin attendant Emily comes in.

Up to date on sustainability

Cabin attendants regularly encounter green improvements in their work on board: from lighter glasses to new ways of recycling. But why are certain choices made and why are they better? They were often unaware of that, Emily knows from experience: 'Not only do I work at Inflight Services, I've been flying for several years. I saw my work in the sky change, but often had no idea why - even though I wanted to know. The answer was usually somewhere, but there were so many channels to get information from.'

In my work on board, I felt the need for a single source of information with straightforward and practical communication about sustainability on board. When corona meant I could fly less for a while, I got the chance to work on that myself.

Emily, cabin attendant

More and more ambassadors in the cabin

'I noticed that our internal communication on sustainability was catching on,' Emily continues. 'Data showed that the messages were well read and more and more colleagues subscribed to our "tile". We were succeeding in making the big sustainability challenge more manageable. So, together with colleagues from Inflight Services, I further expanded the communication range: with videos, a podcast, an intranet platform and stands at the crew centre. We even created an e-book: Onboard Sustainability, Part of a Bigger Journey. In it, we set out step by step how we've made cabin work more sustainable over the past 10 years.'

Thanks to Emily's initiatives and effort, cabin crew colleagues now know exactly what is changing in their work, and more importantly, why. For example, what is the reason for the new glasses in business class (lighter, and therefore more sustainable), but also why we collect certain materials to recycle. This not only generates understanding and acceptance, but also makes our cabin crew ambassadors of sustainability on board: they answer passengers' questions about the choices that are made'.

In the cabin and cockpit

Emily gets a lot of appreciation from colleagues in the cabin as well as from Inflight Services. Moreover, colleagues from other divisions and departments want to learn from her. 'Other places in the organization are also working hard on sustainability and running into the same communication challenges as I did when I started this project. I like it when I can help colleagues reach their target group in the right way. In the end, we have to do it together.'

'It's very rewarding work,' says Emily. 'Because of the reactions, but also because she gets a lot of space and freedom to do it.

There was nothing at all when I started, I had to - or rather was allowed to - determine and build everything myself. Apart from the general KLM-wide communication guidelines, there was no plan or strategy, I really started from scratch. A challenge, but also great fun: how often do you get so much space to build something like this all by yourself? As far as I'm concerned, my blue career says it all about working at KLM: flying and working in the office, where - with a little bit of initiative - you also have all the freedom you need to set your own course'.

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