Hot on the heels of its announcement earlier this week of a goal to save 85 million gallons of fuel in 2013, United Airlines is launching a Sustainable Supply Chain (SSC) initiative in an effort to better understand the environmental performance of and deepen relationships with its suppliers. The initiative underscores United's effort to lead commercial aviation as an environmentally responsible company and builds on the airline's commitment to environmental sustainability, according to the announcement.
"We work with hundreds of suppliers so it's important for us to understand the environmental impact on our supply chain, and this new initiative allows us to be proactive," said Katrina Manning, United's vice president of technical procurement. "Focusing on our supply chain presents us with an opportunity to make responsible decisions to further strengthen our commitment to the environment."
Part of United’s EcoSkies program, the SSC initiative involves measuring and evaluating the sustainability of United's current suppliers' products and operations through a comprehensive survey, starting with those in traditionally high-risk industries as well as members of the airline's strategic supplier community. United will also integrate the environmentally focused survey into its request for proposal (RFP) process. Through implementation of the SSC program, United will evaluate whether the use of each new suppliers' product or services would reduce the airline's impact on the environment.
"We are pleased to launch this program that demonstrates our commitment to working with key supply chain partners on environmental issues," said Jimmy Samartzis, United's managing director of global environmental affairs and sustainability. "We will not only incorporate environmental considerations into our purchasing decisions, but will also seek to identify opportunities to collaborate with our suppliers to improve the environmental profile of the products and services we use."
In 2014, United says it will establish targets for improvement and begin to communicate those expectations to its suppliers.
The SSC initiative is aligned with the airline's participation in the United Nations Global Compact, which encourages its signatories to promote environmental practices throughout their supply chain. United was the first U.S. airline to join the Global Compact.
United has a lot of work to do in order to stand out as a sustainability leader in the aviation industry. Competitor Virgin America has one of the youngest and most efficient fleets around and is a leader in its in-flight food offerings, recycling efforts and biofuel research, and offers some of the best carbon offsets for passengers interested in mitigated their carbon footprint from traveling. And European competitors including KLM and Lufthansa are also leading industry efforts to incorporate biofuels.