How Air New Zealand Is Focusing On Sustainability

Air New Zealand has recently released its 2020 sustainability report and is giving itself a pat on the back. According to the airline, Air New Zealand is making significant progress towards the targets set out in its United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aligned Sustainability Framework despite the challenges thrown up this year.

Air New Zealand has just released its 2020 sustainability report. Photo: Getty Images

Airline Chairman calls runaway climate change a nightmare scenario

In the report, Sir Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of Air New Zealand, notes the airline industry won’t achieve its goal of halving its emissions by 2030. But it will be well on the way of doing so. Air New Zealand is doubling down on its Carbon Reduction Programme and overall sustainability strategy. Sir Jonathon says not to do so would contribute to runaway climate change, calling that scenario;

“A nightmare that will make the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy look like a minor market perturbation.

“If nothing else, COVID-19 has shocked aviation into a more acute realization both of its vulnerabilities and of its obligations.”

The airline says 10,557 tonnes of CO2-e were saved through carbon reduction programs over the last financial year (ending June 30).

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Air New Zealand saved 10,557 tonnes of CO2-e over the last financial year. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

Air New Zealand and its passengers step up to reduce and offset emissions

By making Air New Zealand as fuel-efficient as possible, the airline has improved its fuel efficiency by more than 18.3% since 2009. They’ve achieved that by bringing in newer, leaner planes and retiring older, fuel-guzzling aircraft. In addition, operating practices have altered over time. Less fuel consumed means less CO2  gets pumped into the atmosphere.

Air New Zealand’s passengers have also done their bit. More passengers than ever are choosing to voluntarily offset their flight-related carbon emissions. In the last financial year, 7.1% of Air New Zealand’s passengers offset their carbon emissions, up from 4.6% the previous year. On a market by market breakdown, the greenest passengers came out of the UK. 14.0% of Air New Zealand’s UK passengers offset their carbon emissions.

“It has been particularly pleasing to see voluntary offsetting rates increase in the past year,” says Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran. He says that the 7.1% figure is “fantastic,” particularly considering the drop in passenger numbers this year. Earlier this year, the reported participation rate by passengers in carbon offset programs globally was about 1%.

Air New Zealand says all up, passengers elected to offset over 92,0002 tonnes of CO2-e, up from over 63,000 tonnes in the previous year.

It’s not just about carbon emissions

Together with passengers, Air New Zealand has contributed close to NZ$1.5 million towards permanent native forestry projects across New Zealand. The airline says the supply of permanent New Zealand native forestry offsets is a clear challenge for New Zealand. The airline also made financial contributions to help conserve 498 threatened species and relocate 42 conservation dogs.

These handy dogs help sniff our protected species (mainly birds), enabling humans to keep an eye on their habitats. Alternatively, the dogs can detect pests and invasive wildlife. Globally, New Zealand is considered a leader in pest eradication programs. While there’s an inherent social good in investing in programs like these, Air New Zealand’s future success largely hinges on New Zealand’s reputation as a clean, green country. The dogs help preserve that reputation.

Air New Zealand helps keep conservation dogs like Rhys in business. Photo: New Zealand Department of Conservation

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is paying attention to social as well as environmental concerns. Noting some highlights from the 2020 sustainability report, Air New Zealand says more than 8,900 blankets were donated to a range of charitable organizations. Further, more than 770,000 dry goods, including muesli, crackers, and sauces redistributed to New Zealand food banks.

After a year of bad news for Air New Zealand and the airline industry in general, it’s good to see something positive. Greg Foran says his airline has a good story to tell about what it has achieved. Over the next year, he wants to build on this and make Air New Zealand a leader in advocating for and taking action on environmental sustainability.