Building trust

Christer Hellstrand

It starts with trust. Convincing aerospace companies who are often rivals to work together on areas of mutual interest and benefit isn’t necessarily easy. The formation of the International Aerospace Environmental Group (IAEG) is a good example.

“That was a big hurdle when we first came together in 2010. At the time there was little trust among the founding companies,” explains Christer Hellstrand, Boeing’s director of environmental capabilities and compliance. Hellstrand was instrumental in the IAEG’s launch.

“We had Boeing and Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer, along with engine manufacturers Rolls-Royce, GE and Pratt & Whitney, and other major drivers in aerospace trying to work together on something entirely new. I’m happy to say that after two years, I think we have built together a high level of trust, which has been critical to the group’s success.”

The IAEG began with 11 companies and has grown to 25 members who represent 60 percent of the aerospace industry’s total revenue.

Hellstrand says a foundation for the companies’ successful collaboration is a regular pattern and rhythm of working together. It is a simple but effective process for the group to build and maintain momentum.

“For example, when you’re leading a team in a company, you always have what we call a morning ‘standup,’ or a time when the whole team comes together. What is the plan for the day? What help do you need?”

Hellstrand says it’s more complicated with a global team such as the IAEG, but company representatives maintain a schedule of weekly teleconferences, semiannual in-person meetings, and quarterly board meetings. “A regular cadence of coming together is critical, especially for a group of this scope and geographic diversity, if we’re going to make progress.”

And in the past year the IAEG has made good progress. It created a voluntary, standardized approach that aerospace companies can use with their suppliers in collecting required chemical data. Later this year, the group will release a common industry standard for the collection of greenhouse gas emissions data.

There is another key ingredient in the IAEG’s success, Hellstrand says. “I think the key was to not give up. It would have been easy to say this is too difficult. Tenacity was critical, and it paid off.”