Sustainability in action


Finnair has always recognized that sustainability makes good business sense. Finnair was one of the first airlines to report on environmental sustainability in 1997.

Since 2008 Finnair has reported on sustainability following standards set by the Global Reporting Initiative and Carbon Disclosure Project. We believe sustainable operations make good business sense, and want to embed sustainability thinking in our strategy and in all our operations.

Reducing fuel consumption and emissions

Airlines’ biggest environmental impact comes from fuel consumption and the resulting emissions. Since 1999 Finnair’s emissions per seat have already decreased by about a quarter, and we are on track to meet our target of a further 24% reduction by 2017.

With fuel prices at a record high, it makes both environmental and business sense to reduce fuel consumption. Finnair has set itself a target of reducing fuel consumption by 2% from its 2010 level by 2014. This would mean a fuel saving of 15 million kg, which equals

  driving 8,000 times around the world by car

 heating 18,000 houses in Finland for one year

having 340,000 60W light bulbs on for one year.

 In October 2011 the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), organiser of the world’s only global climate change reporting system, commended Finnair for its efforts to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve reporting capabilities, and recognize the strategic business risks associated with climate change.

In  2010 Finnair's CDP score was 61 and in 2011 Finnair improved and received a score of 78 out of 100, which was higher than any other publically-disclosing airline's worldwide. A score greater than 70 puts a company in the CDP’s ‘high’ category of climate change-aware firms.


In 2012 Finnair achieved an excellent score in the Carbon Disclosure Project's Nordic Report, earning a rating of 92 out of 100 and making it one of the annual survey’s top companies as well as the first airline ever to place in the CDP’s Leadership Index.

One kg of fuel = 3.15 kg of carbon dioxide emissions

Five steps for reducing emissions

1. Maintaining a modern fleet

Operating a modern fleet is good for the environment and good for business. The average age of Finnair fleet is ~8 years.

Each new generation of aircraft reduces fuel consumption by approximately 20% 

2. Exploring the use of biofuels

Biofuels have the potential to reduce overall carbon emissions by 50–80%, depending
on how they are produced and which feedstocks they come from.
In July 20, 2011 Finnair flew its first biofuel flight from Amsterdam to Helsinki. This was the longest biofuel flight to that date. The economics of biofuels do not yet make business sense for everyday use, but we believe that it is important to help stimulate the development needed in the overall biofuel supply chain.

Finnair participates in various projects in order to enhance the commercial use of biofuels, e.g. the EU project Biofuels Flight path 2020. It is a roadmap with clear milestones to achieve an annual production of 2 million tonnes of sustainably produced biofuel for aviation by 2020. This is a shared and voluntary commitment by its members to support and promote the production, storage and distribution of sustainably produced drop-in biofuels for use in aviation.

3. Reducing the weight of aircraft

Finnair has a “weight watchers” program for aircraft: we have installed lighter seats that offer the same level of comfort for passengers, but result in 5% savings in emissions per seat. For the entire Airbus 32S fleet, the seat changes bring a reduction of 7 million kg of CO2 per year. We are also taking into use lighter containers for luggage and cargo. Even switching coffee spoons to wooden coffee sticks reduced the weight of the aircraft – and created less waste as well.

 Reducing 50 kg from each Finnair flight saves 330 000 kg of fuel per year = 1 million kg of CO2 emissions per year

 Using instant coffee instead of regular coffee = 15 000 kg of fuel saved

 4. Flying smarter

We have removed 9 aircraft from our fleet without really touching our product. Efficient aircraft utilization means we can maximize the number of passengers/cargo we carry per unit of discharged emission. On-time departure and arrival allows for making fuel-saving adjustments later on in the flight and during ground operations.

• Flying the shortest possible route and taking winds into account; flying at the optimal speed and altitude.
• Finnair pilots use cost index components of the aircraft avionics, which perform real time calculations based on weather and flight plan, and suggest changes in speed or altitude that optimize fuel economy.
• Making a stop in the right place: the fuel for the last two hours of the flight has to be carried all the way, so in long haul travel it makes sense to make a stop at the right place.
• When landing, keeping the aircraft in clean configuration as long as reasonably possible reduces drag. This reduces fuel consumption and noise.
• On the ground: single engine taxiing and using airport’s mains electrical power instead of aircraft’s auxiliary power units. APU (auxiliary power unit) in aircraft provides electricity, compressed air and hydraulic power for the aircraft’s systems.

In 2011 Finnair completed its program aiming to reduce the use of APU (auxiliary power unit) in aircraft. A reduction of slightly over 20% in using APU in the Airbus 320 fleet brought about savings of 1.1 million kg of fuel, reducing CO2 emissions by 3.5 million kg.

5. Making good use of the infrastructure

Using an uncongested airport means less waiting time for take off or landing and less fuel burned. Finnair’s Helsinki hub is uncongested and has three runways. By comparison, London or Hong Kong have only two.

The Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) in landing has been the preferred choice in Helsinki since 2001. It requires significantly less fuel than the standard stepped approach and also creates less noise. Greener and quieter CDA landings are possible in uncongested airports with a developed infrastructure, such as Helsinki.

Currently about 46% of Finnair landings in Helsinki are greener, quieter CDA landings. During off-peak hours, the rate is around 80%.


Catering waste sorted and recycled

Finnair Catering holds the ISO14001 environmental certificate. In 2011 Finnair Catering, which operates the largest kitchen in Finland, reutilized 67% of the waste it generated, i.e. reused it as material or burned as energy.

Unfortunately EU regulations limit the possibility to recycle much more, as animal by-products – which include any material that has come in contact with food that has meat or fish in it, including packaging material – have to be disposed of by a special method and cannot be recycled.

Recycling of uniforms and aircraft textiles

When Finnair started to renew its visual identity, the company wanted to find new uses for as much of the old materials as possible. Materials included old uniforms, blankets, seat belts, curtains from the aircraft etc.

We found many innovative ways to recycle these high quality materials:
• Globe Hope, a Finnish textile design company, created bags from old curtains, old advertisement banners and seat belts, and dresses from old uniforms.  Read more
• Students studying clothing design used old uniforms as models for tailoring.
• Old blankets were donated to an orphanage in Burma. Read more
• U6, a group of Helsinki based workshops that employ people who have trouble finding employment, created new items from old blankets and uniforms to be sold in shops in Helsinki.

Greener day-to-day operations at our Helsinki cargo terminal

Warehouse materials (plastic, wooden platforms) are collected and reused/recycled as much as possible.
We also aim to reduce the emissions of ground operation vehicles by ensuring that the vehicles are compliant with latest emissions regulations, by using electric forklift trucks and by avoiding idle running.
In the office we have common network printers in use, separate waste baskets for office paper and telex traffic was changed from paper format to electronic format in 2009.

What can you do for sustainability?

• Well planned cargo shipping saves time and environment.
• Use an airline that operates a modern fleet. Each new generation of aircraft reduces fuel consumption by approximately 20%.
• Choose the shortest route and always in the right direction from the start. This way your cargo only flies the miles you need to.
• When you need to transfer, make the stop in the right place – preferably at an uncongested airport. The fuel used in the last hours of the flight has to be carried all the way, and the more the plane weights, the more fuel it burns.
• Pack smartly – the more weight, the more fuel is consumed. Read more about cargo packaging


Published September 27, 2012

Category: Environment, Finnair Cargo, Corporate Responsibility