Amex GBT, Shell and Accenture have partnered to launch a book-and-claim SAF platform for corporates

American Express Global Business Travel has teamed up with energy giant Shell and professional services company Accenture to create a new platform for purchasing sustainable aviation fuel, the organisations announced in June.

The three companies have launched Avelia, a ‘book-and-claim’ platform for purchasing SAF, which helps reduce carbon emissions from flights compared with traditional kerosene jet fuel. Book-and-claim allows travellers to pay for SAF and claim the benefits, even if SAF is not available at their departure airport, with the fuel instead being fed into another aircraft in an airport where SAF is available.

Avelia aims to share the costs and benefits of SAF across the business travel sector by giving airlines access to the ‘buying capacity’ of corporates who are willing to share the higher cost of purchasing SAF, which is currently four to five times higher than normal jet fuel.

The platform, which uses blockchain-based technology, has been developed by Shell and Accenture, with the support of the Energy Web Foundation. Working with Amex GBT will allow Avelia to aggregate global business demand for SAF to help increase supply and use of the fuel, say the organisations.

“A truly viable route to decarbonising air travel is now open for business. We’re calling on all companies to join us and share the costs and benefits of SAF across the travel and aviation sectors,” said Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott in a statement. “Airlines will gain access to the buying capacity of businesses, drawing from Amex GBT’s 19,000 customers around the world.”

Shell Aviation president Jan Toschka added: “SAF is a key enabler of decarbonisation in the aviation industry, and it’s available today. However, it’s currently scarce and costs more than conventional jet fuel. Avelia will help trigger demand for SAF at scale, providing confidence to suppliers like us to further increase investment in production, and in turn helping to lower the price point.”

“Our vision for the Avelia platform is to bring together airlines, corporates, cargo players and SAF suppliers in a trusted ecosystem that no individual company could build or access on its own,” added Europe strategy lead for Accenture, Rachel Barton. “Blockchain technology will be piloted to help ensure trust via data integrity, validate proof of ownership and enable transparent tracking of the environmental benefits of SAF for customers.”

A week after the launch, Amex GBT announced that professional services organisation Aon had become its first customer to commit to the programme. The company, ranked 48th in BTN’s Corporate Travel 100, employs around 50,000 people and is thought to have spent nearly $50 million on US-booked air travel alone in 2019. In 2021, Aon committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030 in alignment with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Kelly Pereda, director, global travel and meetings operations at Aon, told BTN Europe the company joined the Avelia programme to “work with industry leaders helping shape the SAF journey” and to provide a “tangible means to decarbonise Aon’s business travel and drive wider adoption of SAF”.

The company is also “making more conscious and purposeful decisions about travel through its Smart Working strategy,” said Pereda, which includes investment in virtual and remote working technology and the recent upgrading of its online booking tools to display emissions information.

The companies did not reveal details on the tracking or calculation of Aon’s business travel-related emissions or how it would assess the appropriate volume of SAF to purchase, pointing to the embryonic nature of the commitment.

Although labelled a ‘pilot’ programme, Amex GBT’s vice president global sustainability, Nora Lovell Marchant, said: “The term ‘pilot’ is generically used in the SAF space, given how new and nascent this industry is, with a nod to how much collective work there is to be done in bringing SAF forward to market. But to be clear, our SAF programme is live today and fully operational.”

She continued: “We are in conversations with a wide swathe of stakeholders, including prospective clients and peers. Our aim is to make SAF accessible and affordable for as many industry actors as possible – as soon as possible.

“We’ll make names and numbers public as soon as we can contractually, but the programme launch of one million gallons of SAF was just the start. We feel reasonably confident it will be oversubscribed, with announcements on more clients joining and more gallons to come.”

The scheme is also open to non-Amex GBT clients, but “in a supply-constrained market, Amex GBT clients will be given priority,” said Lovell Marchant. “That said, we welcome conversations with anyone serious about SAF because through collaboration we can drive forward net-zero aviation.”