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Delta CEO Ed Bastian at Milken Institute conference: Resilience and commitment at the intersection of two crises
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Delta CEO Ed Bastian at Milken Institute conference: Resilience and commitment at the intersection of two crises

Delta CEO Ed Bastian discussed redefining “business as usual” in a time of multiple crises during a panel discussion last week sponsored by the Milken Institute’s Summer Series virtual conference.

Ed appeared with the chair of the editorial board and editor-at-large, U.S. of the Financial Times, Gillian Tett; President at the University of California, Janet Napolitano and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Wasserman Media Group, Casey Wasserman.

The leaders, along with the rest of the country, are facing dual crises – the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the growing outrage over racial inequality and social injustice. In the hour-long panel, the group discussed how they are leading their organizations through these unprecedented times.

Ed on resiliency and a more durable future

“It’s going to give us a new view on resilience. Resilience of the health of our people, how we take better care of safety, and not just the physical flight and safety, but the actual health and well-being of our people as well as our customers.

One of the real challenges the U.S. airline industry has is a lot of under-invested-in infrastructure. And we’re going to take the time to accelerate forward our future and make progress.

Our business model is going to be built on a higher quality, and as a result, is going to be more resilient, more durable in the future.”

Ed on Delta’s billion-dollar commitment over the next decade to the environment, sustainability

“Ironically enough, on Valentine’s Day, we announced we were committed to offsetting and eliminating all of our carbon footprint going forward. First, through purchases of assets and then through investment in things like sustainability. You will see a billion-dollar commitment over the next decade toward that goal.

I think it comes back to the word I used earlier – resilience. The resilience of our environment is just as important as the resilience of our health, resilience of our balance sheets and the resilience of our future, and we’re not going to back down. Actually, this is another opportunity to push our future forward.”

Ed on the outcry for racial injustice: ‘This doesn’t go away’

“This time really does feel different. The impact that we’ve all had, the combination of the two crises intersecting and interacting with one another, caused the outcry to reach the level that we’ve had. It’s gotten people’s attention.

As corporate leaders, we want to fix things; we want to hear it and put it away. This doesn’t go away.

Systemic racism is there, and we need to understand. So, one of the most important actions we can all take, and in our company we are taking, is understanding what it means; what does it look like and how am I unconsciously condoning and allowing systemic racism to come into my own company, which I find abhorrent, and I’m committed to doing that.

So, I think this is going to be a time of reflection, a time of understanding and absolutely a time of action to make the changes we need to really move forward.”

The June 22 interview is part of Milken’s summer podcast series, a special digital series designed to connect and activate a community of stakeholders at the highest levels. A replay of the complete interview will be linked here when available.

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