The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Home / case studies / Case study: How Korean Air is promoting flight safety

Case study: How Korean Air is promoting flight safety

Air transportation has an inherent potential for massive human cas­ualties and property damages because it is exposed to a wide range of internal and external risks such as changing weather conditions, terrorist attacks, mechanical errors and errors at the control tower, in addition to accidents caused by human error. Korean Air owns a fleet of 148 airplanes and carries 23,270,000 passengers and 1.53 million tons of cargo per year. Flight safety is, thus, its top priority.

This case study is based on the 2015 Sustainability Report by Korean Air published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate that CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly is achieved by identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment and stakeholders and by measuring, managing and changing.

Layout 1Abstract

With the aim of becoming the world’s safest airline offering premium services, Korean Air does its utmost to promote safety both in and outside the organization  Tweet This!. After measuring and setting targets, Korean Air took action to implement an advanced safe flight system, embrace internal and external safety assessments – for example, Korean Air became Korea’s first airline to be registered as an IATA IOSA-certified airline in January 2005 – and, also, better protect Korean Air’s passengers and aircraft through preventive actions such as collecting security information on all domestic and international destinations and issuing flight security grades for individual airports on a monthly basis.

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2015 Sustainability Report Korean Air identified a range of material issues, such as governance, the increased importance of the need for talent and the changing demands of customers. Among these, with 23,270,000 passengers and 1.53 million tons of cargo carried per year, flight safety is Korean Air’s top material issue.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Korean Air engages with:

Stakeholder Group
Central and local governments
Affiliated companies & subsidiaries
Colleges & research institutes
Non-permanent workers & interns

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

Korean Air conducted a materiality assessment to understand the varying expectations and interests of its internal and external stake­holders and to identify material sustainability management issues. Issues were prioritized largely based on the materiality assessment standards of the GRI G4 Guidelines and the methodology recom­mended in the ISO 26000 Guidelines.

Relevance was determined based on a survey on employees, an anal­ysis of issues covered in the sustainability reports of other domestic and overseas companies in the industry and media reports over the past 5 years, and in-depth interviews with stakeholders.

Stakeholders were surveyed online in order to prioritize 50 issues identified as relevant to Korean Air. A total of 174 stakeholders responded to the online survey and 25 of the issues were finally selected as material issues. Stakeholders inside and outside Korean Air were most keenly interested in the growing demand for the safety of products and services, increased importance of need for talent, governance and market presence.

What actions were taken by Korean Air to promote flight safety?

In its 2015 Sustainability Report Korean Air set the following targets for promoting flight safety, based on the company’s approach to materiality – on taking action on what matters, where it matters:

  • Implementing an advanced safe flight system

Korean Air became the first airline in Korea to acquire a government certification on the regulations and operation of the Safety Manage­ment System (SMS) in 2008. The regulations concerning Korean Air’s SMS include the organization necessary for safety management, re­sponsibility for safety, safety policy and procedures, and compliance with domestic and international requirements and standards.

Safety Management Organization: The safety and security office is under the direct control of the president in charge of the matter and is responsible for creating a company-wide security management system and managing safety systematically. The director in charge of safety and security reports directly to the president so as to ensure that the reporting chan­nel remains independent and free from external interference and that the top management remains fully informed about all safety matters.

Safety Management System: Korean Air takes a three-tiered approach to safety management: ex-post response, ex-ante prevention and prediction. ‘Ex-post respons­es’ involves an investigation of events that have already occurred and an analysis of the causes; ‘ex-ante prevention’ focuses on minimizing the impact of risks by identifying safety threats through safety reports and safety examinations; and ‘prediction’ is based on an analysis of flight data and regular flight monitoring data to keep a close watch on safety. This multi-layered safety management system is a critical component of Korean Air’s safety management efforts.

Safety Promotion Programs: Korean Air operates the Safety Confidential Reporting System (SCRS) and other safety promotion programs in order to minimize the loss of human life and property that could be caused by safety threats and to create a better safety culture.

  • Embracing internal and external safety assessments

Korean Air implements different quality assurance programs cus­tomized to its individual business divisions, as part of the broader quality assurance program that governs the entire organization and the company as a whole, with each business division devising and implementing an audit plan each year.

IOSA-Certified Airline: Korean Air became Korea’s first airline to be registered as an IATA IOSA-certified airline in January 2005 by meeting safety standards consisting of over 900 items according to the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), an international safety audit program developed by the IATA. Korean Air has been re-audited every two years to remain on the IOSA registry.

ISAGO Program: Korean Air joined the IATA-developed ground safety program, Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO), in April 2009 and is monitor­ing the manufacturers of aircraft and parts supplied to Korean Air under the program. In addition, as a member of the ISAGO Pool Ad­visory Group, Korean Air shares information and works closely with other organizations to standardize international safety practices and to promote the safety of ground handlers around the world and the quality of their operations.

The U.S. Department of Defense Safety Certification: Korean Air has remained certified by the U.S. Department of Defense as a safe airline to use since 2001 by meeting its safety standards under the Airlift Transportation Program. The program assesses the safety of private airlines to determine whether they are safe enough for employees to fly on business trips. The program determines whether or not airlines can provide safe, high-quality and reliable services by conducting a paper review every six months and an on-site inspection every two years.

  • Taking preventive actions to better protect Korean Air’s passengers and aircraft

As flight safety and security has emerged as a major concern in the wake of a series of accidents in recent years, Korean Air is taking the follow­ing preventive actions to better protect its passengers and aircraft:

  • Collection of security information on all domestic and international destinations and issuance of flight security grades for individual airports on a monthly basis.
  • Operation of a close cooperation network by sharing information with branches, relevant departments and national security agencies.
  • Analysis of global security trends and data gathered from international security conferences that Korean Air attends and implementation of the latest security measures.
  • Provision of regular security training and education for employees and regular monitoring to ensure that security systems are properly working in each area.
  • Publication of the emergency response manual; regular checks to ensure that proper safety equipment is available for immediate use when necessary.
  • Emergency response training on how to avoid or deal with aircraft hijacking and how to respond upon receiving information about possible security threats.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicator addressed in this case is: G4-PR1: Percentage of significant product and service categories for which health and safety impacts are assessed for improvement and the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 416-1 Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories



1) This case study is based on published information by Korean Air, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:




Note to Korean Air: With each case study we send out an email to your listed address in request for a comment on this case study. If you have not received such an email please contact us.