Delta and its joint venture partners Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic will carbon-offset more than 1,800 metric tons of emissions from more than 15,000 Delta, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic customer flight segments to and from Chicago surrounding the 2019 GBTA convention, the preeminent annual industry gathering of travel sales and service professionals globally.
“We know sustainability is important to every member of the Delta, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic family, including those who we do business with daily and our many thousands of corporate and business travellers who fly us every day,” said Bob Somers, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Global Sales. “These offsets are symbolic of our continued commitment to sustainability and our long-term target of reducing our carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050.”
“I’m also pleased to share that Delta, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic have committed to increase the ease of purchasing carbon-offsets for all our customers who book their travel on Delta.com, AirFrance.us, KLM.com and VirginAtlantic.com” Somers said.
Most of the carbon-offsets will be by way of purchases that fund The International Small Group and Tree Planting program (TIST). TIST encourages subsistence farmers to improve their local environment and farms by planting and maintaining trees on degraded and/or unused land in India, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. As the trees grow, carbon captured is quantified and verified and certified greenhouse gas credits are sold in the global carbon market. More than 88,000 farmers in four countries have successfully planted 18 million trees and captured nearly five million metric tons of carbon dioxide to date.
Additionally, Delta is now piloting a program to build in carbon offsets for corporate accounts and is looking to expand. Delta has such offsets in place today with accounts including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Columbia Sportswear, Merck and UCB Biopharmaceuticals.
“Delta’s ambition is to be the leader in corporate sustainability. We’ve learned so much from working with our customers as well as Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic as we look to expand and solidify what a broad sustainability program for our corporate accounts can be,” Somers said. “We appreciate the passion and leadership of these customers and partners as we work with them to make these programs meaningful for them and for others going forward.”
Delta’s manager – climate strategy Stephanie Zhu has also accepted a position on GBTA’s Sustainability and Responsibility Committee and will play a key role in driving the travel industry sustainability conversation and commitment forward.
“This opportunity to serve on GBTA’s sustainability board means that Delta will continue to have a voice in a larger endeavour across the travel sector as we all move toward long-term sustainability goals,” Zhu said. “I look forward to sharing best practices, insights and driving innovations through GBTA’s commitment to this critical issue.”
Delta’s ongoing sustainability efforts
Since 2005, the airline has reduced its jet fuel consumption, leading to an 11 percent decrease in emissions as it works toward its long-term goal of achieving carbon-neutral growth and reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050. In July, Delta flew its first carbon-neutral flight using biofuels and carbon-offsets.
Delta was the first and only U.S. airline to voluntarily cap carbon emissions at 2012 levels by purchasing carbon offsets ahead of the ICAO CORSIA implementation, which caps international emissions at 2019/2020 levels. It is the first U.S. airline to recycle aluminium cans, plastic bottles and cups, and newspapers and magazines from aircraft, accounting for the recycling of more than 3 million pounds of aluminium from on-board waste, and is removing a variety of single-use plastic items, including stir sticks, wrappers, utensils and straws from its aircraft and Delta Sky Clubs.
In 2018, Delta created Green Up, an employee-led resource group that establishes sustainability ambassadors throughout the company, resulting in initiatives such as the donation and upcycling of retired uniforms when the company introduced new ones for frontline employees, which diverted more than 350,000 pounds of textiles from landfills. The airline also removed all plastic wrapping from international Main Cabin cutlery and its new amenity kits for all cabins, unveiled June 4, the latter of which diverts 30,951 pounds of plastic from landfills annually.
These sustainability efforts have resulted in Delta being awarded the Vision for America Award by Keep America Beautiful in 2017 and the Captain Planet Foundation’s Superhero Corporate Award in 2018, as well as being named to the FTSE4Good Index four consecutive years and the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index eight consecutive years.
Air France’s ongoing sustainability efforts
Air France takes measures to reduce its environmental footprint and offer a more sustainable travel to its clients.
In total, since 2011 Air France reduced its CO2 emissions by 20% (g.CO2/passenger/km). The actions and innovations carried out by the Air France Group have already made it possible to reduce its CO2 emissions per passenger by 20% and to reach the target set for 2020 by 2018: 7% less net emissions between 2005 and 2018 in total for the Air France Group, in a context of increasing air traffic. The airline also takes important steps to reduce plastic use on board and will eliminate 1,300 tons of single-use plastic by the end of the year. In this way, Air France will eliminate 210 million single-use plastic items by the end of 2019. They will be replaced by sustainable alternatives on all flights. In addition, since 2015, Air France no longer supplies plastic drinking straws on board, representing a reduction of 1.3 million plastic items.
To go further, in partnership with A Tree For You, Air France has developed the Trip and Tree program to offer customers who so wish the possibility of making a donation to support reforestation projects around the world, and so reduce the carbon footprint of their trip. Since its launch, 85,500 trees were already planted.
KLM’s ongoing sustainability efforts
KLM is continuously reducing CO2 emissions by investing in fuel-efficient aircraft, by making better use of air space, optimizing flight operations (for example by saving weight on board), using sustainable fuel and by offsetting emissions. Furthermore, KLM investigates rail connections for short distance destinations and support research into new aircraft design.
Virgin Atlantic ongoing sustainability efforts
Virgin Atlantic have a long-standing sustainability program called Change is in the Air, established in 2007. The program primarily focuses on climate action, supply chain activities and non-profit partnerships.
Virgin Atlantic is clear of the climate challenge and fuel and carbon efficiency is the number one sustainability priority. In 2007 it set a challenging target of 30% reduction in CO2 (by passengers and cargo carried) by 2021 and later fully supported industry targets agreed in 2009 (1.5% efficiency from 2009, carbon neutral growth from 2020, and net 50% reductions 2005-2050).
Virgin’s actions are focused around the three carbon big wins: new fleet, CORSIA and offsetting, and new fuels. Virgin Atlantic has been transforming its fleet from older four-engine to more efficient twin-engine aircraft since 2011. Each switch saves about 30% carbon per trip, and along with optimizing loads, flying more efficiently and reducing on-board weight, Virgin Atlantic has already achieved ~20% reduction CO2 since its baseline year in 2007. More savings are expected as new A350s start to come into service this year, followed by new A330neos in 2024.
Virgin Atlantic has been a long-time campaigner for a global carbon market-based measure for aviation and is in full support of the ‘Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation’ (CORSIA), agreed by UN body ICAO and countries around the world in October 2016. Supported by industry this means that from 2021-35 airlines will collectively pay billions directly into robust new carbon reduction projects like renewables and forestry, offsetting an estimated 2.5 billion ton of CO2 in the process and helping the global industry to achieve its own ‘carbon neutral growth from 2020’ target. Virgin Atlantic also runs a high quality, independently verified passenger offset scheme that allows all its customers to offset the carbon produced from their flight through their awarding winning partner Climate Care: www.virginatlantic.com/changeisintheair/offset.
The next opportunity for significant carbon reductions is set to come from affordable sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Virgin Atlantic have been driving advances in this area for more than 10 years and are delighted with the progress of technologies like Lanza Tech’s and others which convert unavoidable carbon-rich wastes into fuels. With inclusion of ‘Recycled Carbon Fuels’ in the UK’s existing ‘biofuel’ incentive scheme – the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) – there could be commercial volumes of these fuels, with carbon savings of at least 70% compared to fossil jet, as soon as the early 2020s.
Other areas of Change is in the Air include work on our supply chain, making all our food, drinks and other products more sustainable and ethically sourced, and our people strategies. You can find out more at www.virginatlantic.com/changeisintheair.
SkyTeam ongoing sustainability efforts
The SkyTeam Alliance strives to set the industry standard for protecting the environment, promoting social responsibility and realizing equitable, economic prosperity. SkyTeam member airlines have a Corporate Social Responsibility Statement to ensure the development as an alliance aims for high performance, not only from a business standpoint, but from a social and environmental perspective as well.