Any company that wishes to operate a fully sustainable business travel programme must face the reality that it will cost perhaps 30 per cent more than they are paying for their air travel today, with the increased cost coming from the need to match and replace the fossil jet fuel their travellers use with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Aside from not travelling at all, this is the most direct and effective action a corporate client can currently take. And, if a company wishes to do this convincingly, then it must be prepared to either increase its business travel budget significantly or fund the purchase of SAF through the savings it makes from travelling less.
It may cost some companies more than my guideline 30 per cent and for others it will be less. It depends on the routes that they fly and how they calculate emissions. But this is the level of strategic cost that a company needs to be thinking of if it intends to get serious about removing the environmental impact of its corporate travel programme.
This instantly places a much sharper focus on the CO2 methodology and calculation being applied as these determine the amount of SAF a company will need to buy.
Companies should also consider whether they believe in the notion that premium and business class seats cost more from an environmental perspective. Personally, I disagree with the idea that a premium seat equates to two or three times the emissions of an economy seat as I prefer to concentrate on the proportion of the total fuel that an airline attributes to each cabin.
There may be additional environmental costs in the delivery of services and meals to the passengers in different classes, but otherwise I believe the answer must lie in the proportion of the jet fuel cost – relative to each fare type.
"SAF is truly here and available today and may be purchased by corporate clients directly from a producer"
Regardless of how a company chooses to calculate its emissions, the level of expenditure on SAF will be significant. This will also be an entirely new purchasing category for most companies, and there is very little benchmark data available.
The situation is compounded by the idea of ‘virtual SAF’ – and the many calls for either investment in new sites, or schemes which help convince energy companies to invest in future production. All of which is necessary. However, for those companies who are committed to immediate action, the purchase of real SAF, direct from production, is certainly possible.
Much is spoken about the scarcity of SAF and, that with total global jet fuel requirement of 300 million tonnes compared with global SAF production at just 300,000 tonnes (0.1 per cent), that SAF is difficult to obtain.
The reality is that Neste, the world’s largest producer of SAF, with current production of 100,000 tonnes, is within months of opening its major production sites in Rotterdam and Singapore and will have total flows of 1.5 million tonnes by 2023.
This means SAF is truly here and available today and may be purchased by corporate clients directly from a producer to then place with an airline of the client’s choosing.
The primary challenge facing most travel managers, environmental sustainability leaders and corporate procurement teams is not the availability and delivery of the fuel but the cost of it.
SAF at scale will be a strategic purchase for any company. It will require socialising and support at senior level – often at the very top of the organisation. It will be viewed as expensive and as a voluntary purchase that the company does not ‘have’ to make.
It may require a new level of thinking towards the cost of removing company travel emissions, but SAF is real and is here today.