Emirates president Sir Tim Clark has called on businesses to face up to their social responsibilities in a changing global environment.
Receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Warwick, Sir Tim told new graduates the brand of tomorrow had to be” fair and balanced” when it came to weighing commercialism against responsibilities.
The airline veteran said he had seen too much corporate malfeasance and lack of governance and urged new graduates to look for companies with “a wholesome approach” to the way they go about their business model.
“The brand of tomorrow has to be a brand that is balanced, that is aware of what it does and how it does it and start to balance out the commercialism with the responsibilities that goes with something that is a big as [Emirates],” he said.
Sir Tim has gone from a newly graduated 21-year-old working for British Caledonian to one of the most influential figures in the airline industry.
The honorary doctorate recognises his leading role in the industry.
“When I came into the business in the early 1970s we weren’t talking about propeller airplanes and biplanes, but the industry has scaled up enormously,’’ he said.
“The demand for travel has gone through the roof in the last 30, 40 years and the affordability of air travel is so great that the scale of operations for carriers such as ourselves, reacting to market demand, has changed everything we do.
“You see the A380 now, an aircraft that will carry 615 people. When I came into the business the largest aircraft was the Boeing 707 and that carried 133 people.”
The airline executive also sees no respite from the pace of change, noting: “What see today will bear no resemblance to what we are looking at in ten of fifteen years”.
This included the way people sees themselves in terms of lifestyle and aspirations, he said.
There had been a “huge transposition of the way people think about themselves, what they aspire to do and how they want to get there – and that backs into the airline sector as we need to be a service provider, in a highly competitive business, to what people really want”.
As well as his role as Emirates President, Sir Tin chairs the company’s charitable arm, the Emirates Airlines Foundation. The foundation was started in support of children suffering from AIDS but expanded into areas such as wildlife conservation.
He pointed to an Emirates campaign to brand its aircraft with species facing extinction and onboard announcements aimed at persuading people to shun goods made from poached animals.
“The fact of the matter is, the more you do of that, and the more it enriches your brand, the more it brings people in,’’ he said.