On Tuesday this week, Malaysia Airlines announced that, as part of the carrier’s sustainability work, it had joined the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) initiative as the first aviation company in Malaysia. Meanwhile, when doing so, it joined a whole host of other airlines globally. Let’s take a closer look at what the UN Global Compact is and why it matters for airline sustainability.

What is the UNGC?

The UNGC is a global, voluntary CEO initiative that promotes responsible business practices and the advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When signing up to participate, companies vow to align their strategies and operations with principles of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption and report on their progress each year.

The initiative also runs seminars and courses on topics such as biodiversity, gender equality, and just livelihood transition related to a shift towards more sustainable production and other practices.

The Malaysia Aviation Group, which is the parent company of Malaysia Airlines, says that signing up for the initiative shows commitment to aligning its operations to the UNGC Ten Principles (explained in greater detail further on in the article).

The Group’s Chief Executive, Captain Izham Ismail, commented,

“We are pleased to join the United Nations Global Compact to strengthen our commitment in adopting sustainable business practices, joining a growing list of more than 20,000 companies in over 160 countries who have committed to the UNGC’s Ten Principles and share the same values and goals for a sustainable future. Beyond achieving our net-zero goal, we believe that partnerships and collaborations will be essential to propelling our efforts holistically and delivering a positive impact on the environment, society, and governance, and chart our way forward for long-term success.”

The principles of the UNGC

The ten principles of the UNGC are divided into four subcategories.

Human rights

1. Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and

2. make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.


3. Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

4. the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor;

5. the effective abolition of child labor; and

6. the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Boise Airport Sunset

Photo: Michael Overstreet/Shutterstock


7. Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;

8. undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and

9. encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.


10. Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

airplane in sky between trees

Photo: DG Stock/Shutterstock

Companies participating in the initiative have to submit yearly reports on their work, which is measured against specific criteria.

UN says airline industry has “unique opportunity” to lead the way in sustainable business

Other airlines that have joined the UNGC are United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, and the so tragically current Yeti Airlines of Nepal.

(We may have missed a few, as some airlines are filed under the sector category “oil and gas producers,” others under “aerospace and defense,” and yet others under “travel and leisure.” There may be more hiding in other more-or-less related denominations.)

Faroze Nadar, Executive Director of UN Global Compact Network Malaysia & Brunei (UNGCMYB), commented on the addition of Malaysia Airlines Group to the ranks,

We are delighted to welcome Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) to the United Nations Global Compact. As a sector that plays a critical role in connecting people and driving economic growth, the aviation industry has a unique opportunity to lead the way in sustainable business practices. We look forward to working together to create a more sustainable future for all.”

Air France-KLM Shutterstock

Photo: Markus Mainka | Shutterstock

Among airports, signatories thus far include Eleutherios Venizelos Athens International Airport, Swedish airport operator Swedavia, Korea Airports Operations, Incheon International Airports Corporation, Vinci, Fraport, and Aeroports de Paris (ADP).

From the overall broader aerospace sector, those who have joined the initiative include Airbus, NAV Canada, Leonardo, Safran, MTU Aero Engines, Saab, GM Helicopters, Embraer, Dassault Aviation and Thales.

The UNGC is not a new initiative. Airbus, for instance, has been a participant since 2003, and Air France-KLM joined the same year. Perhaps, the weight of the impact of initiatives such as the UNGC can be measured by the fact that in 2022, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) chapter of Air France-KLM’s universal registration document was 74 pages long. Meanwhile, only a decade earlier, in 2010, it was only 33 pages.

Malaysia Airlines’ sustainability strategy

Malaysia Airlines launched its Sustainability Blueprint in April 2021. In addition to supporting the United Nations’ 13th SDG (Climate Action), initiatives target three other SDGs: Goal 5 (Gender Equality), Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), and Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Initiatives launched by MAG include tracking the Group’s greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon accounting program, a fuel efficiency program, as well as fleet renewal. The mainline carrier’s fleet currently consists of 89 aircraft (16 of which are wet-leased turboprops) with an average age of close to 11 years. The youngest in the fleet are six A350-900s. Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines recently signed an MoU with Airbus for no less than 20 A330neo widebodies.

malaysia airlines a330neo rendering

Image: Airbus

Furthermore, the airline has programs in place to install solar panels, reduce waste, and utilize electric ground support vehicles to reduce emissions from ground operations. It also aims to decrease the gender gap in technical roles and reduce income inequality.

When Simple Flying spoke to the airline’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Philip See, in November last year, he stated that all employees were passionate about the topic of environmental sustainability, already feeling the acute effects of global warming in the everyday lives of themselves and their families. Read more from the conversation and discover the workings behind the airline’s sustainability strategy here.

  • Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 Getty

    Malaysia Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Kuala Lumpur International Airport

    Year Founded:
    May 1st, 1947


    Izham Ismail


Source: simpleflying.com

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