Maria João Calha works at TAP for just over 13 years and today she is the head of the newly created department of Environment and Sustainability of the Company. For us to realize the reason of the creation of this department, what motivates it, and its goals, we spoke to the person in charge. With an Environmental Engineering degree, mother of two and travels’ lover, Maria João Calha just embraced a new challenge, with a new team, within TAP.
Andreia Afonso and João Sargedas (Environment), Maria João Calha (Head of Environment and Sustainability) and Marta Almeida (Corporate Social Responsability)
Tell us, first of all, a little bit about Maria João Calha. What’s your story and career path, this far?
I’m 37 years old, love to travel and to get to know the magical surroundings this world has to offer. I’m a mother of two boys, 5 and 2 years old, that love to go for a walk and will quickly become great travelling companions.
I have a degree in Environmental Engineering and despite the technical nature of this field, which is highly regulated, I have learned, from an early age, that it is important to be in line with the activity/business of the Companies, finding suited solutions that, improving the environmental performance, do not question, obviously, its economic viability.
Just over 13 years, I left the Ministry of Environment (back then I was working at the Environment Institute, later renamed Portuguese Agency for the Environment) to join TAP. It did not yet exist on the Company’s formal structure an Environment field and, as part of the restructuring measures that were the cause of TAP’s Business Units, it was being planned its integration in a Board with cross-cutting Services.
And so began this major challenge at TAP – it was necessary to study the different environmental legal requirements, understanding if they were suitable with air transportation and with TAP, and working in implementation plans. Finding ways to raise awareness to the methods change and environmental alternatives processes was also fundamental- I would say it will never stop being important, because, in these fields, the individual performance and the collaboration of each one of us are essential to achieve better results.
Since then, in TAP’s formal structure, the Environment field has always been associated with other facilities with which, in my opinion, had very little in common. This was the case of Facilities Safety and, more recently, of Fire Prevention and Other Risks. Since 2013, when I took the responsibility for the Environment and Fire Prevention field, I have always defended that the Fire Prevention facilities and devices improvement/management element would be better placed in another model (~which took place in june of 2017).
In june of 2017 a new challenge comes up in my professional path, result of the Company’s restructuring process: leading this new area of Environment & Sustainability – which associates the Environment value to the Corporate Social Responsibility.
What is the basis for the creation of this new department?
This new department was created with the purpose of providing self-sufficiency to the Environment field, associating the Corporate Social Responsibility aspect (CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility), and having a strong resemblance to what happens in other companies of the aviation sector and in Portuguese companies with TAP’s similar dimension.
It is, honestly, an organizational template with which I identify, because being social and environmental pillars fundamental for TAP’s sustainability, they should walk together; they both highly depend on internal mobilization, on the commitment of each one of us in reducing the environmental impact of our activities and in strengthen the positive impact that we can approach in Community’s support actions.
What are the principles that rule this field and what are the tasks that you will have to perform?
The field of Corporate Social Responsibility is new at the Company, that’s why we are preparing TAP’s Social Responsibility policy and work plan for the upcoming years and issues and behavior priorities will be selected for that, internally and in partnerships with renowned institutions.
We have, obviously, been doing a benchmarking work about the themes that were selected by other companies and we have received a lot of important inputs from Airlines that, such as TAP, take part in IATA’s Joint Corporate Social Responsibility Task Force.
I believe that Social Responsibility only makes sense when it goes through our workers, first of all. It is our people that mobilize themselves in the name of causes and that, through their action/decision want to help the community. This movement is extremely rich! In a first action which we developed – “Reabilitar Portugal… Juntos!” – with the collaboration of several colleagues and voluntary work we were able to help on the reconstruction of some municipalities and parishes significantly affected by the fires occurred in october of 2017. A movement by a cause that affected a lot of TAP workers’ friends and families.
Relatively to the Environment field, we will continue the work plan that was already underway on the following areas:
- Environmental legal Compliance: To ensure the fulfillment of the legal requirements regarding waste management, liquid effluents, gaseous effluents, environmental licensing;
- Communication, report and representation: educational project coordination in order to boost environmental culture, with the implementation of training courses, econews, TAP’s representation at IATA’s Environment Committee;
- Environmental projects with a technical nature: management of the carbon dioxide emissions compensation programme, in articulation with IATA.
This ambitious work plan is joined by the challenge of ME’s Environment Office (now extinct due to the restructuring process) responsibilities have been centralized to the Environment and Sustainability field.
The Environment and the Social Responsibility were already major business fields in the Company. What changes with this “merger” and what are the challenges you think this department will face?
There wasn’t, until now, a Social Responsibility field formally instituted at TAP.
There were, of course, promoted, developed and assured social topics in various fields, without guiding principles or common ground. Voluntário com Asas’ voluntary group, that assured a number of important matters until this new field was created, such as, choosing TAP’s partner institutions (in the scope of Donate Miles program and other supports, for example) and the management of various kinds of supports, will now be responsible for the genuinely important task of doing solidary actions that support the Community. In the scope of Corporate Social Responsibility, we need a lot of every volunteer, whom are our arms in the field and, because of that, we will continue a close cooperation with voluntary groups.
At the risk of repeating myself, this merger shows an organizational model that has already been tested by several companies, in which, both environmental and social principles walk side by side in creating value for TAP’s trademark and for the Community. TAP is socially responsible when it can generate value, not only to their shareholders but to all audiences with whom TAP gets along: internal public (employees) and external public (associates, suppliers, clients, environment and community).
What are your goals and expectations regarding the job – and the team – and what do you consider to be extremely important on making them happy?
When you like what you do (and as much as I do!) we always want to do more and better. You can only get good results with team effort and our team, despite being small, possesses major technical expertise, is extremely collaborative and committed. Keeping this team focused on a positive approach and on promoting a work environment where everyone can put their knowledge into practice is part of the goals and it will only benefit this field and TAP.
In what way does the department of Environment and Sustainability will try to reach people and send the message, externally (clients, public opinion) and internally (employees)?
Both Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility fields depend a lot on the commitment and motivation of each one of us. It is our daily actions that boost a social and environmental responsible culture. For that reason, reaching out to the internal and external audience is one of our challenges, daily challenges I would say, and we must strengthen existing relationships, through well identified communication channels, so we can list all necessities and interests, generating value for everyone and business sustainability, at the end of the day.