19 October 2021

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

United’s new Eco-Skies Alliance flags sharp acceleration of corporations buying SAF

Large corporations, including Nike, Siemens and AXA Deutschland, have signalled their sustainable travel intentions by launching significant sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) buying commitments with United Airlines and Lufthansa, reports Mark Pilling. United is claiming a first with its Eco-Skies Alliance programme which “allows corporate customers the opportunity to pay the additional cost for SAF. This contribution goes beyond traditional carbon offsets and will show there is demand for low emissions fuel solutions”, said the airline. The 11 organisations that have joined Eco-Skies are software firms Autodesk and Palantir, Boston Consulting Group, CEVA Logistics, Deloitte, shipping companies DHL Global Forwarding and DSV Panalpina, HP Inc, Nike, Siemens and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Others have joined but have yet to be announced.

Under the programme, customer’s donations are held in a designated SAF account and used by United to purchase additional SAF or invest in “promising” SAF producers. The airline pledges to use 100% of donations for the future purchase of SAF and/or SAF-blended products, or to invest in SAF development.

“More than a dozen companies will work in partnership with United and contribute funds towards the purchase of 3.4 million gallons of sustainable aviation,” said the carrier. “United has made the airline industry’s single largest investment in SAF and has purchased more SAF than any other airline in the world. World Energy, a long-term partner of United, will supply the SAF to Los Angeles International Airport.”

United explained that work is underway to enable firms to record their SAF purchase contributions towards their own carbon offsetting targets. “United is part of the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition, which is working to embed SAF reductions in key frameworks, including the GHG Protocol, the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi),” said a United spokesperson. “United will be providing air transport buyers with the required information they need to be able to claim emissions reductions.”

As an inaugural participant, CEVA Logistics said it is taking a lead in the air cargo industry to reduce the logistics-related impact on the environment at the source by creating demand for more SAF.

“With the announcement of our participation in the Eco-Skies Alliance, we are working with interested customers to explore the different ways to make this SAF option available for their supply chain operations,” CEVA told GreenAir in a statement.

“United exclusively buys the SAF for blending with conventional aviation fuel, a process that results in a fixed, defined surcharge. CEVA Logistics is using the early stages of the Eco-Skies Alliance programme to further define and expand the offering to more and more customers. In terms of reporting: the methodology and results are externally validated, and the customers receive a certificate, stating the company name, the reduced metric tons of CO2 emissions, the routes and time period.”

Writing on LinkedIn, DSV’s Senior Director Sustainability, Lindsay Maclver Zingg, said: “The Eco-Skies Alliance is an important strategic move in realising our green ambitions, driving a more sustainable transport and logistics industry for the future and is a key step towards reducing our Scope 3 emissions, which are related to subcontracted air freight transport.” Greenhouse gas emissions related to Scope 3 are indirect emissions associated with other functions of a company’s value chain including transportation.

According to United CEO Scott Kirby: “This is just the beginning. Our goal is to add more companies to the Eco-Skies Alliance programme, purchase more SAF and work across industries to find other innovative paths towards decarbonisation.”

Added Bryan Sherbacow, Chief Commercial Officer at World Energy: “This is an innovative example of an airline enabling corporations and individuals to access direct decarbonisation solutions. This can serve as a model beyond aviation for the broader economy.”

Hard on the heels of the United Eco-Alliance unveiling, fellow Star Alliance member Lufthansa announced it was launching the Compensaid Corporate Program to enable businesses to use SAF for their air travel. The first customer is insurance provider AXA Deutschland. It will offset its business-related air travel for an initial period of three years.

Lufthansa launched Compensaid in August 2019 as an online platform enabling travellers to offset their emissions. “Air travel compensation with Compensaid is done either through the use of SAF, the sponsorship of certified climate protection projects, or a combination of both options,” said the airline. “AXA Deutschland’s offsetting starts with 15 % SAF and 85% through selected climate protection projects. This results in the complete CO2 neutrality of all the flights.”

These latest announcements build on several initiatives by corporations to offset their business travel emissions using SAF over recent months. Deloitte revealed SAF deals with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines earlier this year (see article) and a slew of further initiatives from various players are likely as the year goes on.

“Corporate customers are moving fast to develop sustainable travel solutions, mechanisms and SAF offsets,” said Sarah Wilkin, chief executive of Fly Green Alliance, an Amsterdam-based SAF consultancy that has created a sustainable travel programme.

“The key is to create and adopt measurable programmes, tools and reporting systems that work towards carbon neutral commitments and ESG policy developments. We believe commitments through an alliance will support the SAF industry scale up, accelerate investments and increase project developments, which is needed to reach 2050 targets.”

Photo: United Airlines