Air Canada | 2020 Canadian SDG Accelerators Awards Profile

Air Canada

Industry: Aviation/Travel


Category: Large

Applicable SDG: SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

Applicable Targets:

  • Target 3.4. By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
  • Target 3.5. Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol
  • Target 3.8. Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

Please explain why the selected SDG is a priority for your company

In a world that is constantly changing and evolving, we maintain deeply rooted connections to the people we fly, the communities we serve, and the environments in which we operate through our global network. At Air Canada, we understand this gives us both a responsibility and an obligation to demonstrate our values in all that we do. This includes ensuring that our company itself is sustained and stands up for what is right for the long-term interest of our employees, customers, and communities. 

In 2018, we undertook a materiality assessment to identify the main sustainability areas of focus of our key stakeholders. Through this exercise, and past and ongoing sustainability initiatives, we found a great alignment between our focus and the Sustainable Development Goals.  We are committed to making the Sustainable Development Goals part of the strategy and culture of our company, and to engaging in collaborative projects which advance the goals. To this end, we are proud to have been the first Canadian airline to confirm its commitment to join the United Nations Global Compact, an organization that encourages all businesses to adopt sustainable, socially responsible practices.

While we are proud to support all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, we are particularly focused on the following seven goals: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, Goals 5: Gender Equality and 10: Reduced Inequalities (as a champion in Diversity and Inclusion practices), Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, and Goal 13: Climate Action, while always staying true to our core value, Safety First, Always and exercising responsible and ethical business practices. This application is aimed to address our support for Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being.

There is no sustainable development without culture. Culture enables sustainability in a variety of ways, at various levels, by linking cultural diversity and biodiversity, influencing long-term behaviours, building identity, encouraging innovation, and contributing to sustainable management practices. Our culture is our internal propeller and sets the path for our plan of action for our people, our planet and our business, and has been critical in allowing us to navigate and quickly adapt through the pandemic crisis which devastated our industry, seemingly overnight. It is through our culture that we will continue to further advance the goals.  At the heart of our culture is our number one central value: Safety First, Always. The foremost consideration in all that we do, the safety of our customers, of our employees and of those in communities where we fly and serve is always our top priority. At Air Canada, we aim to create a healthy and rewarding work environment where everyone can excel and realize their full potential. We seek to inspire, encourage, and challenge our employees to be the best in all that they do. We are committed to contributing to the socio-economic growth and wellness of communities in which we operate and, together with our suppliers and customers, seek to make a positive difference in the lives of people in need across Canada through financial and in-kind support. In order to accomplish this, we understand that we need to foster a healthy environment which prioritizes and encourages good health and well-being, providing resources, supporting worthy causes, and partnering with organizations to further our impact with both our employees and our communities. 

Our Corporate Well-being program for our employees has a 4-prong approach: (1) overall health and wellness, (2) mental health, (3) financial health, and (4) work health. Air Canada is also invested in the health and well-being of its communities and works through our community partnerships and the Air Canada Foundation to support related causes and charitable organizations and their programs that contribute to the health and well-being of those in need. 

Our journey of building and nurturing our culture at Air Canada has earned us deep, emotional connections with our employees. We nurture these connections through ongoing partnerships with our unions and active listening, including formal mechanisms such as ongoing employee engagement surveys and a variety of informal measures. This investment has led to us consistently ranking as a leader for employment practices and engagement. Satisfied, safe, healthy, and engaged employees make for satisfied customers and positive contributions to the wellness of our communities.

Please describe the initiatives/programs that your company is taking to address the TARGETS of your primary SDGs. 

One of our primary health and wellness employee initiatives at Air Canada is our Corporate Well-being Program. It offers personalized programs to employees and equips them with various resources, tools, and expert advice on things like health and financial management and overall well-being. Employees have access to LifeSpeak, a total well-being platform which gives employees and their family members instant access to information and expert advice on topics from physical and mental health, to relationships, financial health, and caregiving. 

Employees at Air Canada are also provided with a wealth of resources and discounts that help minimize barriers to health and wellness related knowledge and activities:

  • Health and Wellness Library: Provides resources including articles on fitness, food and nutrition, general physical well-being and healthy weight.
  • LIFT Sessions: Aims to help individuals achieve their fitness goals through custom developed training sessions.
  • Corporate fitness discounts.

Employees are provided with comprehensive group benefit coverage that ensure protection in areas of health and dental care costs, income security in the case of disability, and life insurance benefits in the event of injury or death. Some employees also have access to a health spending and/or wellness account. Employees are given the flexibility of selecting benefits packages that cater to their individual and family needs.

Employee groups also benefit from the Employee and Family Assistance program (or other similar programs), a confidential and voluntary support service with immediate help for any work, health, or life concern, which is available 24/7. These resources have been leveraged and regularly communicated to employees throughout the pandemic so employees can receive the support they need. Additionally, we have provided training to managers to raise awareness and sensitize managers around the importance of mental health in the workplace so they can best support employees. Other professional services are also offered to most groups of employees.

Flexible policies at Air Canada allow for the accommodation of a variety of situations, including providing reduced work weeks to help employees prepare for retirement. Other personal leave policies include:

  • Parental Sharing Policy: Including Parental Sharing Benefit measures to promote more equal parenting roles by encouraging parents to share parental benefits. Amendments increased the duration of the parental/adoption leave to different maximums depending on how the leave is shared and whether maternity leave is shared with parental leave.
  • Personal Leaves Policy: Employees can apply for leave for personal reasons, for family responsibility, for victims of family violence, and leave for traditional Indigenous practices.

Under certain collective agreements, Air Canada may also grant a leave of absence, without pay, for up to six months, to female employees for the purpose of continuing breastfeeding.

Air Canada Foundation (ACF):

  • Registered charitable organization (2012).
  • Focus: health and well-being of children and youth, offering both financial and in-kind support to Canadian registered charities.
  • Offers continued support to major health-related causes that benefit all Canadian
  • Active participant in humanitarian and disaster relief activities as need arises.
  • Every year supports approximately 300 registered charities with monetary, airline tickets and Aeroplan points donations.
  • Financial support through the Air Canada Foundation helps provide pediatric hospitals with equipment needed and encourages programs with its partners.
  • In addition to the Air Canada Foundation, to maintain strong linkages with local communities, particularly around economic development, Air Canada also develops community partnerships.


  • Every Bit Counts program: Air Canada customers can make a difference in the lives of children by donating their loose change of any denomination. Donations are collected on board Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge flights, and in Maple Leaf Lounges. In 2019, over $406,000 was raised for the Children’s Miracle Network. Funds were equally divided between the 14 member hospitals across the country to respond to their most urgent needs ranging from purchasing medical equipment to funding well-being programs.
  • Hospital Transportation Program: Allows for Aeroplan Members to donate Aeroplan points to the Air Canada Foundation, which in turn redistributes them to 15 children’s hospitals across Canada, giving children and their parents access to medical care not offered in their communities. This program not only provides transportation for the families but also lessens the financial burden and provides peace of mind while they deal with their child’s hospitalization.
  • Aeroplan Donation Program: Helps Aeroplan Members support Canadian-based initiatives that are working to improve lives and assist communities locally, across Canada and around the world. With 72 new charities joining the program in 2019, Aeroplan Members can connect with more than 300 organizations, charities and causes they care about including those that advocate for mental health, such as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the Douglas Foundation, and the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health. Throughout the year, 101,121,325 points were donated by Aeroplan and its members online in 2019.

Air Canada supports its employees’ community engagement and in addition to providing volunteer opportunities, provides support for initiatives and charitable organizations they are personally involved with outside the Company.

Air Canada is actively engaged in encouraging good health and well-being through precautionary and preventative measures when it comes to issues of addiction with drugs and alcohol. The use of intoxicating substances jeopardizes job performance and creates safety hazards for employees and the public. We take seriously our responsibility to maintain a safe workplace (and related operations), free from the adverse effects of intoxicating substances, including alcohol and drugs, and have an effective policy on drugs and alcohol in place. This policy is a component of our overall safety program. Through our LifeSpeak quarterly campaigns, we launched an Addiction/Resilience campaign that centered on recognizing various ways in which addiction can manifest and its effects on the people around us. Experts shared advice on recovering and building resilience to stay sober. Topics included digital addiction in children, overcoming relapses, and harnessing the power of mindfulness to get well. 

Please highlight the key impacts and results of the mentioned initiatives. 

It is important to Air Canada to monitor and evaluate its programs to determine growth, opportunities and impact. To determine the impact of our programs which contribute toward the advancement of Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, we assess our Corporate Well-being Program both internally and through third-party assessments. In 2019, a third-party assessment was conducted, and we achieved Bronze certification with Excellence Canada on mental health in the workplace. In addition to third-party assessments, Air Canada performs its own internal assessments. This past year, two quarters from 2017 (pre-Corporate Well-being Program) and the two same quarters from 2019 (post-Corporate Well-being Program) were selected to compare. Between 2017 and 2019, the internal assessment showed the following results:

  • A decrease in incident rate claims based on employee population
  • A decrease in the duration of claims (with employees returning to work on average 15 days sooner)
  • A decrease in the percentage of mental health claims
  • A decrease in the absent rate for the year

We believe it is reasonable to attribute some of the improvement to the Corporate Well-being Program.

In addition to our Corporate Well-being Program, we monitor the impact of the Air Canada Foundation. In 2019, the Air Canada Foundation raised more than $2 million net, a record-breaking number to be redistributed to charitable organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of children and youth in Canada. To date in 2020, it has donated more than $2.4 million to charitable organizations for programs dedicated to the health and well-being of children and youth in Canada. In 2020, the Air Canada Foundation released its first annual Impact Report, detailing its initiatives, programs and support for charitable partners impacting the lives of children, youth and families across Canada. The following list shows some of the impact our fundraising has had on our hospital partners through Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), including equipment purchased and programs funded:

  • BC Children’s Hospital –Transport Ventilator for Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) helping roughly 350 children per year: The latest model features the most advanced technology available to assist children who cannot breathe on their own. It can be used for long periods of time without causing further damage to delicate lung tissue, resulting in fewer long-term complications as the child grows.
  • Alberta Children’s Hospital — Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS): Uses bypass technology to keep a child’s heart and lungs working until vital organs can heal. It is a complex procedure that involves a full team of specialists, including a surgeon, cardiologist, anesthesiologist, pulmonologist, and doctors and nurses who specialize in pediatric intensive care.
  • Children’s Hospital of Manitoba — Two long-term care trilogy ventilators with back-up systems: Life support equipment essential for the survival of newborns. The portable ventilators allow fragile children to be cared for at home rather than in hospital for long periods of time.
  • Montreal Children’s Hospital — Extra Corporal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Bed for PICU: A life support method used to oxygenate the blood in newborn babies with lung failure. It is designed for babies and toddlers, aged 0-3, in critical state.
  • McMaster Children’s Hospital — Life Saving Ventilator: A breathing machine that delivers warmed and humidified air to a baby’s lungs through an endotracheal tube or non-invasively through a mask or nose prongs, estimated to help 350 patients per year. The air pressure, amount of oxygen, and number of breaths per minute can be regulated to meet each baby’s specific needs.

Aeroplan Members also donated over 10 million Aeroplan points towards the Hospital Transportation Program which helps sick children access the medical care they need away from home. In 2019, the Air Canada Foundation helped over 220 kids through the Hospital Transportation Program. The Foundation also supported 396 fundraising initiatives, granted 1,211 wishes and supported 315 charities.

Please describe how your company is building awareness for the selected SDG

Air Canada shares its commitments to its employees and communities in various ways, including annually through its Corporate Sustainability Report. Through this report, employees and other stakeholders are informed of Air Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and our efforts and initiatives that contribute toward them.  Regular updates and initiatives are also communicated internally through the employee daily newsletter and the employee social media platform. Updates are shared externally through media releases, newsletters, and social media channels.

On the advancement of Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, we build awareness in the following ways:

  • LifeSpeak Training Videos and Well-Being Campaigns: Training videos for employees featuring expert testimonies on subjects like the importance of self-care, nurturing family relationships and stress management are regularly communicated with our employees through LifeSpeak (part of our Corporate Well-being Program). Quarterly LifeSpeak campaigns also feature a special subject surrounding Mental Health. For example, in October we launched our LifeSpeak four-part Fall campaign: Mental Illness, Trauma and Resilience. Through this campaign we aim to destigmatize conversations surrounding mental illness and help our employees better understand complex subjects like eating disorders, sexual violence and addiction. The Mental Illness, Trauma and Resilience campaign covers: Sharing Knowledge, Overcoming mental illness, Mental illness and trauma, and Resilience and mental illness. Through LifeSpeak, employees can access weekly video vignettes and web chats.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP): We ensure that all contact information is readily available and easy to access per employee group. Information is shared through EAP Union Representatives, Union communication channels, and our Corporate Well-being Platform.
  • Financial Library: Provides employees with Financial Planning tools and Free Financial Advisor information, as well as financial resources including articles, videos and budgeting tools to help with financial literacy and well-being.
  • Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Program: At Air Canada we promote Safety First, Always. Our OHS program is designed to protect workers from occupational hazards, minimizing risks to their health and well-being. All employees can provide input into the program and are encouraged to provide suggestions and ideas on how to improve safety. We actively promote safety throughout the organization with specialized training, education, and awareness programs. Programs are communicated through posters in work facilities, daily briefings with crew to crew discussions, and daily inspections and monitoring activities performed by management. Monthly leadership blogs are also used to discuss and promote health and safety items. Air Canada is an active participant in North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH), promoting health and safety activities that are communicated through employee communications channels. Specialists are brought on site to build awareness and promote health and safety initiatives. Employee safety programs are documented, implemented, effective and continuously improving.
  • Targeted Health and Safety Programs: Air Canada has several programs employees can use to infuse healthy lifestyle habits at the workplace and at home. One example is Pristine Condition, our back-safety program including easily accessible safety videos, that looks to help prevent injuries and keep our employees fit and functional at work and at home. These programs are communicated on an ongoing basis to employees through a variety of internal communications channels. These programs are mandatory for those who work in operations and are completed annually. Site visits from Pristine occur twice annually to speak with employees and promote additional learning sessions. Mental Health Awareness Month: In October 2020, Air Canada ran a campaign to promote awareness and the sharing of mental health tips in support of Mental Health Awareness Month. Employees were encouraged to post a picture and/or share a tip to our internal communications portal. For every post shared 2,500 Aeroplan points were donated to the Douglas Foundation and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, two of Canada’s leading mental health institutions. Employees shared hobbies, self-care tips and more, sparking conversation around the importance of caring for the mental health of yourself and others. A total of 250,000 Aeroplan points were donated. Another campaign was run both internally and externally, encouraging people to donate to mental health organizations through the Air Canada Foundation. Air Canada Foundation: The Air Canada Foundation regularly communicates internally with employees and externally with its diverse stakeholders about the many opportunities available to donate, volunteer, and support health and well-being related programs and initiatives through its extensive network. To help communicate the mission of the Foundation and build awareness with Air Canada employees in 2019, the Foundation team put on a series of Open House events in corporate offices across Quebec and Ontario. Open Houses brought together local partners of the Foundation to speak with employees about their programs and initiatives in support of the health and well-being of children. Open Houses were drop-in style, allowing for flexibility around employee work schedules. In 2020, the Foundation also released its first annual Impact Report sharing with its many stakeholders the successes of its programs and initiatives from 2019. The report detailed partnerships with Canadian registered charities, fundraising events, and the impact on children, youth and families across Canada as a result of the Foundation’s efforts with the support of Air Canada customers, employees and more.
  • Aeroplan Donation Program: We invite our customers to participate with us, through their actions and the Aeroplan Donation Program. Every month, Aeroplan runs a Points Matching week for one of its corporate partners. During this week all points up to 500,000 points donated are matched by Aeroplan, with Aeroplan donating an additional 500,000 points for a total of 1 million points donated to each charitable organization. Points Matching weeks are promoted through Aeroplan communication channels as well as on the Aeroplan homepage, and Aeroplan Donation Program homepage with banners. These promotions help build awareness around both the mission of each charity and the opportunity for people to support their work through donated points. Charitable organizations focused on health and wellness that benefit from Points Matching weeks include the Air Canada Foundation, Stephen Lewis Foundation, War Child Canada and Doctors Without Borders.

Please outline the plans your organization has for being committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in response to COVID-19

We believe partnerships play an important role in community development and the leveraging of assets for greater good. The following is a list of ongoing initiatives Air Canada has engaged in throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Among first carriers globally to require customer face coverings onboard and first airline in the Americas to take customers’ temperatures prior to boarding. In May, introduced a comprehensive program, Air Canada CleanCare+, to apply industry leading biosafety measures at each stage of the journey.
  • March 2020: Air Canada and the Air Canada Foundation worked with Canadian food rescue organization Second Harvest’s to redistribute fresh food items from Air Canada’s in-flight kitchens as the majority of international and U.S. transborder flights were suspended as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Second Harvest’s network enabled us to get these ready to eat items to those who needed it most as quickly as possible. From April to October, more than 378,700 kg of food was offered (more than 8.1 million meals). 60 organizations were supported and more than 8.3 million kgs of GHGs were averted, as estimated by Second Harvest.
  • April 2020: Air Canada’s operations shifted to moving emergency personal protection equipment (PPE) and other essential goods into Canada and around the world.
  • Travel at Home Campaign: Through this member engagement campaign, Aeroplan Members were encouraged to support charitable organizations through Aeroplan points donations, providing another outlet to help support those in need. The campaign supported a variety of non-profits. Through the different phases of the campaign, members could earn status by donating to organizations focused on first response (Global Medic, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders and Second Harvest), mental health (CAMH) and food security (Breakfast Club of Canada and Tablée des Chefs).
  • Air Canada Cargo and the Air Canada Foundation worked with industry partners, including Drone Delivery Canada (DDC), the Pontiac Group and GlobalMedic, as well as generous donors, to deploy a patented drone delivery solution to the Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) community in Ontario. DDC’s Sparrow drone solution helps BFN limit person-to-person contact on its island ferry service by transporting COVID-19-related cargo such as PPE, hygiene kits, test kits and test swabs.
  • Steps taken to ensure the safety, health and well-being of employees:
    • Training and development of resources to help employees navigate the pandemic and encourage proper care of mental health.
    • Launched “Mental Health in the Workplace” training for managers to raise awareness and sensitization around the importance of mental health in the workplace so they can best support employees and to promote leadership development and continuous learning throughout the organization. Training curriculum focuses on promoting mental health awareness and understanding, building relationship skills for managing performance and promoting mental health, providing tools to support employees, and supporting employee mental health in the workplace.
    • Incidental Absenteeism information provided to help managers identify an absenteeism issue before it escalates, recognize the link between presenteeism and absenteeism, view incidental absences as an opportunity to promote employee wellness, see the importance of early intervention; and how addressing absenteeism with a conversation can improve employee health and attendance.
    • Development of COVID-19 Management Guide which provides all people managers with guidelines to handling COVID-19 related situations in the workplace.
    • Developed COVID-19 Return to Work manual which assists for the Return to Work of their employees into Air Canada Facilities, and for continuation of work of employees who have been working at Air Canada facilities, regularly or from time to time, since the onset of the pandemic.
    • A section in the employee Financial Library on Useful Financial Information during COVID-19.

The following is a list of forward-looking initiatives Air Canada is investing in, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Launch of mobile app for Corporate Well-being Program: Allowing employees to access the program’s resources at their fingertips. Follow up plans to launch group challenges and individual fitness and well-being challenges for employees.
  • Medical collaborations to further advance biosafety across our business, including with Cleveland Clinic Canada for medical advisory services and, since 2019, with Toronto-based BlueDot for real-time infectious disease global monitoring. Continue to explore other potential partnerships with technology and medical companies to further strengthen our biosafety protocols.
  • Continue to organize yearly flu vaccination clinics in partnership with healthcare providers for active employees and their loved ones who are interested in getting a flu shot (and are based in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver).
  • Continue available COVID-19 testing facilities for office-based and operational employees at our primary hubs.

Continue advocating for use of rapid testing to protect customers and employees. In early 2020, Air Canada partnered with McMaster HealthLabs (MHL) and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority for a study on testing that continues to yield results that demonstrate the validity of testing as a means to ease travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. Thank you for your consideration of our application for the 2020 Canadian SDG Accelerators Awards in support of Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being.

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