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During COVID, JetBlue announced several sustainability targets — including a net-zero target by 2040, as well as a set of short-and medium-term targets to help them get there. We asked Carl Otto, JetBlue’s Senior Analyst for Sustainability and ESG, how they'll do it.
It’s not news to anyone that
COVID has made the
last two years tough for the aviation industry. As activity has started to
resume and travel is slowly bouncing
new momentum around sustainability is emerging. While the Biden
administration recently set a
of transitioning to sustainable jet fuel alternatives by 2050, COVID gave
airlines downtime to adopt and prioritize new sustainable approaches.
While the focus of reducing emissions has been on transitioning the energy
sector to renewable sources, aviation within and departing from the US
contributes 11 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. Globally, that figure
is roughly 2 percent; and that’s likely to triple over the next 30
if real mitigation efforts aren’t put into place. Thus, the aviation industry
plays a critical part in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and
ensuring the goal set earlier this year by the Biden Administration is achieved.
Globally, a program already exists to help push the industry to mitigate
increases in emissions resulting from growth. The Carbon Offset and Reduction
Scheme for International
is voluntary until 2027; however, 80 countries have already joined and are
following the phased implementation schedule that begins this year. While
is a start, airlines are finding ways to work towards net zero on their
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) alone won’t be enough to reduce emissions to the
levels needed. While we wait to see what further measures are taken as a result
of government enforcement, leadership from airlines such as JetBlue has
moved in to fill the gap. It may surprise some to know that airlines have been
every aspect of their operations — from flying
to in-flight operations to plane
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During COVID, JetBlue, having led the
for some time when it comes to sustainability, announced several ESG
— including net zero by 2040, as well as a set of short-and medium-term targets
to help them get there. We had a chance to ask Carl Otto, JetBlue’s Senior
Analyst of Sustainability and ESG, how they’ll do it.
Carl Otto: The pandemic was exceptionally tough for the entire industry; but
I’m thankful that everyone at JetBlue, from leadership to the front line, really
came together to focus on running a safe and secure operation for our customers
and crewmembers, and making the necessary moves to ensure our financial
security. We aren’t back to pre-pandemic levels yet but are adapting to this new
normal, and have achieved some major milestones despite all the curveballs
thrown our way — including the addition of nine new cities this year alone, the
introduction of new fuel-efficient plane types, growing our product and services
both in the air and with our JetBlue Travel Products, and even disrupting the
transatlantic market with our launch of service to London.
While the pandemic resulted in a massive drop in
the focus it prompted on maintaining our financial security also gave us an
opportunity to examine all aspects of the business for improving efficiencies.
From a sustainability standpoint, we were able to analyze our operation like
never before and identify opportunities to ramp our flying back up better and
smarter. Less congested air space gave our flight and dispatch teams an
opportunity to prioritize fuel-efficient routes and offer us valuable insights
we otherwise may not have been able to study.
CO: It’s really a testament to our leaders and their commitment to
sustainability. They understand that sustainability is crucial to our rebuilding
as an airline and industry as we emerge from this pandemic. Ultimately for us,
our experiences in 2020 only reinforced the importance of mitigating risks that
threaten the health of our business and our planet. Although at times
challenging we have only sharpened our focus on all things ESG. It would have
been easy to postpone our domestic offsetting which we achieved in July 2020, or
the two sustainable aviation fuel contracts we executed in SFO and LAX, given
everything going on. But I don’t think postponing was ever really an option for
us, we knew how important it was to stay firm in our commitment to
CO: You can expect a lot from us in 2022! Sustainability remains a major
focus for the airline coming out of COVID; and we see this re-emergence as an
opportunity to further transition our operations to be more sustainable to help
us reach our target of net zero by 2040.
To help guide us on the path to net zero, we’ve committed to several short- and
medium-term ESG targets:
CO: Our strategy is always to avoid emissions where we can, and to offset
what we can’t. SAF is a major tool we can use to avoid emissions in the first
place, and we’ll continue to use that tool as much as we can. This market has
been developing for more than a decade and we’ve been actively working to prop
for years now. We’re thrilled to see it now gaining the momentum it needs.
Today, we work with two SAF partners — Neste and World Energy — in
SFO and LAX, respectively. We’ve helped bring SAF to SFO since August
2020 and started doing the same in LAX in July 2021. Most recently, we also
announced that soon we will be bringing SAF to the Northeast with S.G.
Preston, too. We will be converting 30 percent of our fuel buy across JFK,
LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airport from traditional
Jet-A fuel to SAF. This is the largest buy to date of a commercial airline at
the airports in this region.
CO: We’ve been working with our long-time offsetting partners,
CarbonFund, and two new partners — South Pole and
EcoAct — to help us ensure that we are investing in high-quality carbon
adhere to a strict set of standards. Our partners help us identify a portfolio
of diverse projects all over the world that are registered with a third-party,
internationally recognized verification standard or standards verified by the
UNFCCC. We recognize that offsetting our emissions is not a long-term
solution — but, like you said, unavoidable emissions are inevitable; and given
what we have at our disposal today, offsets are an important short-term
reducing our environmental impact.
CO: Customers do continue to be receptive to JetBlue’s sustainability work.
JetBlue was founded on the principle of delivering a unique travel experience;
and the reason we’ve been so successful is because we listen to what the
customer wants when crafting that experience. Our customer demand for recycling
cans and bottles onboard is actually how JetBlue’s Sustainability program was
pioneered. That perspective and those conversations absolutely help steer our
CO: In one word: partnership. Sustainability isn’t something that airlines
should compete over. While we’re excited about our progress and targets as a
company, we’re prioritizing sustainability and ESG this year with a renewed
focus on industry partnership and support. This field is still young but growing
very quickly; and we want to help learn and progress the industry together. No
one will solve this problem on their own.
Published Nov 29, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.