Sarah Wilkin is founder and CEO of Fly Green Alliance, an organisation that consults on ESG policy developments and promotes the development and adoption of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)
Several years ago airline organisation IATA suggested that annual global passenger numbers would double, to 7.8 billion, by 2036. In 2020, however, international passenger demand fell by 75 per cent and domestic demand by nearly half.
Covid-19 has rocked global aviation and even the most optimistic observers do not expect ‘normal’ levels to return for three to five years. And what of that prediction for 2036? Right now, it’s difficult to envisage that.
The pandemic has changed our attitudes not only to the way in which we do business, but also towards sustainability and, as air travel recovers, suppliers and corporates alike will build back greener.
For businesses this means reducing travel volumes, carbon counting and offsetting our impact. For suppliers it means developing and adopting more efficient technology and innovating like never before.
It’s very much understood that we won’t all be going back to the office in the same way and that remote working and videoconferencing will, on the whole, remain in some form to help reduce costs and support home/work balance.
I’m sure most of us miss travel right now and don’t want overseas holidays and work trips to be a thing of the past. We also miss the connection of face-to-face meetings, so how can we do business, build back better and hit emissions targets in our new world?
Aviation is one of the most difficult industries to decarbonise and reduce emissions. It needs collaboration and partnerships to bring solutions to the table. It is our role at FGA to foster such relationships and also to work with organisations to help them develop sustainable travel policies.
Simple first steps should include:
• Shifting more journeys from air to rail travel where possible
• Considering whether trips are truly essential before they are approved
• Continuing to use videoconferencing even when the world opens up again
• Implement permanent remote working policies and set-ups
• Purchasing sustainable aviation fuel offsets or credits
Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are one of a basket of measures approved and agreed upon by ICAO, European member states, IATA and other leading bodies and experts in the sector.
Last year, in fact, SAF producer Neste delivered renewable jet fuel to Zurich Airport during the World Economic Forum in Davos, enabling business jets flying in and out of the airport to blend it with fossil jet fuel, compared with which it has an 80 per cent smaller carbon footprint.
However, from our own research we found only half of travel managers know what sustainable aviation fuels are and, according to our research partner Ipsos Mori, the figure is only 30 per cent among the general public. Clearly there is a need for education on this front.
On a more positive note, we are engaging with increasingly more travel management companies, corporates and their travellers, among whom interest in sustainable travel is rapidly growing. TMCs are committed to providing innovative tools to help clients confront their environmental responsibilities.
We must all play a part in making business travel less harmful to the environment, whether we are a supplier, buyer or intermediary. Our role is to grow awareness, stimulate interest and facilitate conversations and partnerships that facilitate greener travel. We hope you’ll join us on that journey.