CAPA, Envest Global Benchmark Airline Sustainability for Corporate Buyers

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Airline Sustainability Benchmarking Report

The CAPA, Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking Report compares 52 airlines on their sustainability performance based on 2019 data. This is not a free resource. It may be purchased here.

Building on the joint CAPA-Envest Airline Sustainability
Benchmarking Report released last fall through CAPA that was geared toward
airlines and the investment community, the companies have teamed up again to
create a new airline sustainability benchmarking report directed at corporate
buyers.

The report provides recommendations for how corporate buyers
can put together a customized approach for assessing an airline’s
sustainability. It also includes an analysis of publicly reported
sustainability information and strategies from 2019-2020 on 52 carriers,
including the 20 largest operators by revenue and seat capacity in 2019, their
most recent Carbon Disclosure Project score, alignment with the Science Based
Target initiative.

“The airlines will be made aware [of the report],”
said Envest
strategic advisor Johnny Thorsen, who also is VP of strategy and partnerships for the recently
launched travel management company Spotnana. “I have tested the waters
with a few airlines, and they may react defensively. We expect that, because
the airlines are not used to being called out on their sustainability
data.”

Thorsen stressed that the report is “not meant to name
and shame,” the airlines. “It is to get facts on the table. It is to create
a transparent data environment.” He hopes it will motivate the airlines to
provide better reporting because that’s what buyers need as sustainability
becomes a higher corporate priority.

“Several buyers have already agreed that they will tell
their airlines, ‘I want you to provide the most accurate data to this
environment, because that helps me to select you,’ ” he said.

Carbon/Sustainability Performance Assessment Guidelines

The report recommends adopting a
single carbon calculator for all city-pair emission estimates “to ensure a
degree of consistency,” when it comes to data. Report authors stop short
of endorsing a particular calculator but note that calculations “vary
significantly depending on the carbon calculator used.” 

Thorsen said, adding that the only current scientific
standard is that “fuel equals carbon emissions. There’s no debate about
that. The more fuel an airline burns, the more they emit. [Calculating fuel] is
a starting point.”

Beyond calculator recommendations and caveats, the report
aims to guide buyers on how to select air carriers with four strategy
recommendations, including a “whole-of-airline sustainability
performance,” which considers elements like average fleet age, passenger
load factors, CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer, a carrier’s sustainability
strategy and sustainable aviation fuel usage, among others.

Authors also address individual flight selection once the
travel buyer has identified the company’s preferred airlines, even though most
current calculations included in a booking tool become a “random number
three weeks before [an employee] travels,” Thorsen said. “Because you
have no knowledge of what aircraft will be used on that day, the load factor
can be high or low. There are so many unknowns. But it’s a good way to educate
travelers about the likely impact of travel.”

Thorsen noted that each corporation will have different
sustainability goals and place different weights on variables. “Some
buyers are prepared to say sustainability wins 100 percent over cost, so lowest
emission will win over lowest price. Others will say they still want the best
price, but if all things are equal, they’ll take the lowest emissions as the
second criteria.”

There’s also cabin class to consider, carbon budgets,
policies with flight avoidance—such as an online booking tool not allowing a
flight to be booked when it’s a short trip and rail is preferred. There are
several elements and innumerable outcomes, “and I don’t believe buyers
will come up with the same conclusion,” Thorsen said.

The next iteration of the report will include data from
2021, according to Thorsen, as well as a configurable index, so buyers can
assign weights based on what is most important for their overall corporate
sustainability goals, because sustainability is becoming increasingly important
across corporations.

Thorsen said that travel managers will begin to be asked by
their bosses, ” ‘What was our average emission per flown hour last year?’
If you don’t have an answer, you are not doing your job,” he said.
“It might not happen now, but you have to be ready for that question. If
your company has an ESG board, it will come. We’re preparing the travel manager
for the fact that you cannot hide from this. It will find you.”

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