Monday, December 11, 2023

Southwest Airlines Unveils ‘Nonstop to Net-Zero’


Southwest Airlines advances on net-zero carbon emission goals with a new strategy.

Southwest Airlines has made a significant move towards environmental sustainability by unveiling its new strategy, “Nonstop to Net Zero.” This ambitious initiative sets a clear path for the airline to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, marking a significant commitment to sustainable air travel.

Key elements of Southwest’s new strategy include a focus on carbon reduction, circularity, and collaboration. These strategic pillars are designed to guide the company’s ongoing sustainability efforts. Notable initiatives include electrifying half of its eligible ground support equipment system-wide by 2030, a feat already 33 percent complete. The airline also aims to save 50 million incremental gallons of jet fuel by 2025, contributing to a longer-term goal of saving 1.1 billion gallons by 2035.

“We’re working toward our decarbonization goals by modernizing our fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft and securing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), while also furthering our sustainability initiatives in the near-term,” Helen Giles, Managing Director of Environmental Sustainability at Southwest Airlines, said in a statement. She highlighted the collective efforts of the airline’s staff and customers in addressing the environmental impacts of aviation, mentioning ongoing collaborations with suppliers, governments, and other organizations.

view from airplane
Photo courtesy Sasha Freemind

In addition to fuel efficiency measures, Southwest is committed to reducing its usage of single-use plastics in inflight service by 50 percent by weight by 2025, with an ambitious plan to eliminate these plastics entirely by 2030, where feasible.

The airline’s updated goals complement its existing sustainability commitments, which align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. These include reducing carbon emissions intensity by 50 percent by 2035, replacing 10 percent of total jet fuel consumption with SAF by 2030, and reducing energy utilization at its Dallas corporate headquarters by 50 percent by 2035.

Southwest’s progress in 2023 has been noteworthy. The airline signed a 20-year agreement with USA BioEnergy, LLC in October 2023 to purchase up to 680 million gallons of neat SAF, potentially yielding 2.59 billion gallons of net zero fuel over the term. Additionally, in August 2023, Southwest introduced a tool for corporate customers to purchase Scope 3 SAF claims or carbon offsets, and partnered with General Electric (GE) Research on a project to predict aviation-induced cirrus clouds.

In recognition of its efforts, Southwest has received accolades from D CEO Magazine and the 2023 Sustainability, Environmental Achievement, and Leadership (SEAL) Business Awards.

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