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Flying High for a More Inclusive CSR Approach


Monday, 4th March 2019 at 5:05 pm
Luke Michael
A major corporate sponsor of Australia’s Special Olympics team is urging businesses to look beyond traditional corporate social responsibility measures by supporting causes that recognise marginalised groups like people with intellectual disability.


Monday, 4th March 2019
at 5:05 pm
Luke Michael


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Flying High for a More Inclusive CSR Approach
Monday, 4th March 2019 at 5:05 pm

A major corporate sponsor of Australia’s Special Olympics team is urging businesses to look beyond traditional corporate social responsibility measures by supporting causes that recognise marginalised groups like people with intellectual disability.

Etihad Airways has been working closely with the Australian team in both a volunteer and CSR capacity since meeting the athletes at the Special Olympics National Games in Adelaide last year.

Sarah Built, Etihad general manager Australia and New Zealand, told Pro Bono News that after a “magnificent” time spent volunteering with the athletes, the company decided to fully fund the team’s flight requirements for the Special Olympics World Games held in Abu Dhabi later this month.

She said as Etihad was about connecting people across the globe, this was an opportunity to connect people through sports and show how sports could be inclusive for all. She encouraged other businesses to learn from their approach.

“Companies on many levels want to get involved in CSR, but sometimes it’s just on those traditional paths. I think areas like this deserve more awareness,” Built said.

“Businesses can think about sporting events that support particular causes, while also realising it can go so much further than just the actual event. We know our staff will get a lot out of this partnership and then the message will hopefully spread to a global audience.”

Etihad has developed an e-learning course for all its staff to help them understand what the Special Olympics is about and to show them how they can go about supporting people with intellectual disability.

The company’s cabin crew have undergone specialist training to make sure they are able to properly assist the athletes and their families throughout the whole journey.

Etihad has also asked its loyalty program members to consider donating their frequent flyer miles to help fund athletes’ accommodation, food and transport while at the games.

Corene Strauss, the CEO of Special Olympics Australia, told Pro Bono News she was thrilled with Etihad’s support and the way the company embraced the “most marginalised, most excluded and most misunderstood community” in the nation.

She said for all organisations that helped people with intellectual disability, it was incredibly hard to get corporate and government support because of a general lack of respect.

“For some reason it seems awkward and confronting for businesses,” Strauss said.

“It’s a real struggle for us because people with intellectual disability are not well understood.”

Strauss spoke of the struggles the team faced securing enough funding to attend the World Games ­­– which is expected to feature 7,000 athletes with an intellectual disability from 170 nations, competing across 24 sports.

“I don’t even know how many sausage sizzles the athletes have had to participate in to raise the $7,000 to get them to the games,” she said.

“Our end game is to become an organisation that can prevent these sort of costs being incurred by the athletes directly.”  

Strauss added there were many ways Australian businesses could get behind the Special Olympics team beyond just financial support.

“Employers can offer their staff as volunteers and we’re looking for volunteers not only as a one-off, but also as ongoing coaches, administrators and leaders around strategic matters,” she said.

“We’d love to get corporate Australia more involved. We could run a little mini-Olympics with our athletes and corporate employees to help end the stigma and discrimination of people with an intellectual disability.”

The Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will take place from 14 to 21 March.

The Australian team of 105 athletes is set to depart on 7 March, competing in more than 11 sporting disciplines in front of an expected 500,000 spectators.


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.


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