Aviation’s environmental performance continues to improve. Airlines are expected to emit 757 million tonnes of carbon in 2015, a 4.6% increase on the previous year but well below the predicted 6.7% growth in passenger demand and the 5.5% growth in cargo.
This decoupling of emissions from the growth in air traffic comes in part from investments in new aircraft. In 2015, airlines are expected to take delivery of more than 1,700 new aircraft worth $180 billion. About half are expected to replace less fuel-efficient older aircraft.
But as a global industry, few other sectors face aviation’s challenges of complying with an array of local, national and international environmental regulations on a daily basis. Combined with this, the environmental performance of airlines is increasingly subject to scrutiny by passengers, customers, and investors.
Many airlines have sought to handle these challenges through the implementation of environmental management systems (EMS), with some being certified to an international standard such as ISO 14001.
“Although all airlines face similar environmental challenges and solutions, the dynamic nature of the business, coupled with increasing regulatory burden and customer interest makes proactive environmental management very demanding,” says Jon Godson, IATA’s Assistant Director, Aviation Environment. “This is where IATA’s Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) Program can assist.”
IEnvA is a voluntary initiative overseen and directed by a core group of 13 airlines. It is based on environmental standards and recommended practises developed for the aviation sector by a joint team of environmental experts from within and outside the industry.
Although a number of airlines have already implemented other comparable environmental management systems, which have proved to be effective in improving environmental performance, IEnvA is able to use the proven success of quality systems and processes seen in IATA’s other certification programs.
There are two stages to the program. Stage 1 is the foundation and helps an airline to develop a comprehensive environment policy by identifying its environmental risks and the impact of potential mitigation efforts—as well as compliance with the legal requirements. This service is free of charge and includes an assessment by an accredited environmental assessment organization (EAO).
It essentially allows an airline to understand its position in relation to the environment and how mitigation resources might be optimized.
Stage 2 builds on this holistic approach and moves the airline beyond the bare necessities to a proactive environmental strategy.
“So if stage 1 identifies the various legal requirements for a water permit and associated water issues, stage 2 would move the airline beyond that understanding into a robust water management strategy,” says Godson.
Additional tools support IEnvA, including an Environmental Standards manual and an Internet portal that allows airlines to share ideas and solutions. Once an airline has established compliance, IEnvA promotes enhanced environmental performance through an iterative process of identifying, assessing, mitigating and monitoring environmental issues.
To date, 11 airlines have successfully completed the Stage 1 assessment and three airlines have passed Stage 2, namely Finnair, South African Airways, and LATAM Chile.
“We are proud to work with IATA on the development and implementation of this unique program for the complex airline industry; this is a useful tool for LATAM,” says LATAM’s Jose Miguel Nunez Prado.
Improving environmental performance at the individual airline sits alongside the industry-wide carbon reduction goals and this will give every airline a license to grow and will prove aviation’s environmental credentials.
“Everything we can do to minimize our carbon profile as an airline is a victory for the environment and for our ability to generate shareholder value,” notes Ville Iho, Chief Operating Officer of Finnair, which has passed its stage 2 assessment.
“In the long run, however, environmental performance is something that all airlines benefit from with sector-wide cooperation. The standards of the IEnvA program help us and all airlines improve fuel efficiency, reduce waste, and limit greenhouse gas emissions in our operations.”
IEnvA supports the industry’s four pillar strategy and three aspirational goals of improving fuel efficiency 1.5% every year on average; achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020; and reducing emissions 50% by 2050 compared with 2005 levels.
A dynamic response
It is the program’s flexibility that provides its greatest strength according to Godson. “Environment issues move on all the time,” says Godson. “IEnvA has had to adapt and that is one of the strengths of the program. So, for example, we have gone from thinking purely about climate change to focusing on areas such as waste management, which has become a big issue. IEnvA allows airlines to respond quickly to a dynamic environment.”
Airlines get letters asking about recycling all the time and dealing with these smaller issues gives the public confidence that they can tackle the bigger issues too, adds Godson. And public confidence in an airline’s environmental mitigation efforts translates into a license to grow.
IEnvA standards and recommended practises are continuously reviewed and updated to incorporate changes in environmental legislation, reporting requirements, environmental management standards (eg ISO 14001), and industry best practises from across the globe.
IEnvA also feeds into financial sustainability as well as green credentials. Financial savings can be realized from following environmental best practise in all areas. “An airline that can demonstrate its environmental performance is more attractive to its consumers, its investors, and its staff,” believes Godson. “This is good for business and will go a long way to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the industry.”
The benefits of IEnvA
- Reduced regulatory compliance risk
- Improved environmental performance no matter the size of airline or the business model employed
- Improved financial benefits from maximizing resource efficiency, and demonstration of good environmental governance to stakeholders and customers.
- Updated standards and recommended practises to reflect regulatory changes and progression in industry-specific environmental best practises overseen by an advisory group of 13 airlines.
- Independent assessments by accredited Environmental Assessment Organizations, maximizing the use of online tools and data exchange.
- Compatibility with other environmental management systems, such as ISO 14001 with an expandable scope for additional modules including Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul; Ground Operations; and Catering.
- Simplified environmental monitoring and reporting