Flying greener every year

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Reducing eco-impacts is not a ‘nice-to-have’ public image issue in aviation: it is a business fundamental. Finnair has been singled out for its leadership in climate change mitigation.

A transatlantic flight causes as much climate pollution as the average household produces in an entire year. Small wonder, then, that a growing number of carbon-conscious customers are choosing airlines that operate as eco-efficiently as possible. 
 
“We want to show that what is good for the environment is also good for business. The two goals go hand in hand,” says Saija Stenbacka, vice president of safety, quality and environmental management at Finnair.
 
Ever since 1987, Finnair has worked systematically to improve its eco-performance. Since 1999, per-seat emissions have been reduced by one quarter. A further 20 percent reduction measured in revenue tonne kilometres is targeted by 2017 in pursuit of the long-term goal of carbon-neutrality.  
 
This slow and steady work has recently paid off in the form of external recognition. Finnair is the first European airline to be certified as a Stage 2 operator in the IATA Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) programme. Finnair is also the world’s only airline awarded an A listing for climate performance by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
 
“Finnair has always been an environmental forerunner, so we are very proud to gain recognition for the committed work we have been doing to mitigate emissions and impacts for many years. Now that we have an IATA-certified Environmental Management System in place, we can work toward our goals in a more coordinated way,” says Kati Ihamäki, vice president of sustainable development. 

New-generation fleet 

Finnair proactively seeks every opportunity to promote sustainable practices both in the air and on the ground, from energy-efficient office buildings to waste-wise recycling.
 
“But our biggest impacts are up in the air. Studies indicate that 95 percent of environmental improvement is generated by fleet renewal, and airlines have only 5 percent room for improvement in other areas. Finnair’s decision to replace its current fleet with new, eco-friendly aircraft is the most significant action we can take to reduce carbon, noise and other impacts,” says Outi Merilä, manager of environmental management. 
 
Finnair will be the first European airline to add the new-generation fuel-efficient A350 aircraft to its fleet this September.
 
“The new A350 is an essential part of our future growth. Its fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are 25 percent lower than those of current aircraft. And flight noise levels are significantly lower,” says operations analyst Juha Karstunen.
 
With its more spacious lower deck cargo bay, the A350 fleet expansion will also increase cargo capacity by 16 to 20 percent per route.

Big on biofuels

With outsourcing becoming the ‘new normal’ in the airline industry, Finnair’s supply chain will become a future focus of its sustainability agenda.
 
“We are increasingly looking not only at our own impacts, but also those of the partners and vendors we choose. As we have approximately 5,000 suppliers, the task of screening and assembling data on our upstream and downstream impacts is a challenging one,” says Kati Ihamäki.
 
Also an industry forerunner in promoting biofuels, Finnair made headlines last autumn by using recycled cooking oil to drive the engines of an Airbus A330 on a nine-hour flight from Helsinki to New York bound for the UN climate summit.
 
“Unfortunately logistics at all airports don’t support biofuel usage, and biofuels are very costly. Switching to biofuels is something that no airline can do on its own. Governments and other stakeholders need to work together to achieve concrete results. We would like to move there sooner, but it will still take years to reach this target,” concludes Saija Stenbacka.
 
Text by Silja Kudel  
Photo by iStock
 

Published February 10, 2015

Category: Environment, Finnair Cargo

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