By Chase Hagl
Southwest Reveals 10-Year Sustainability Plan
On Monday, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines introduced its 10-year sustainability plan. In the press release, the company revealed both its long- and short-term goals aimed at targeting 2019’s carbon neutrality levels, all while continuing to grow its operation.
The announcement comes just weeks after the International Air Transport Association (IATA) voted to accept the Air Transport Action Group’s (ATAG) aggressive proposal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
In the press release, Executive Vice President and Incoming CEO at Southwest Airlines, Bob Jordan said, “As a leading global citizen, we’re building on prior efforts to address our environmental impact, and with today’s announcement, we’re setting goals to reduce our carbon emission intensity and increase SAF in our operations; and we’re working to advance knowledge in the field of sustainability.”
In its 10-year sustainability plan, the airline’s main objective to achieve 2019 carbon neutrality levels includes initiatives focused on reducing, replacing and offsetting. Southwest’s plan of action:
• Reduce its carbon emissions per available seat mile (including scope 1 and scope 2 emissions) by at least 20% by 2030 through fleet modernization, route optimization and other initiatives.
• Replace 10% of its total jet fuel consumption with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030.
• Offset emissions by providing the first U.S.-based airline carbon offset offer with loyalty points and for every dollar contributed toward offsetting Southwest’s carbon emissions, Southwest will match the contribution.
A main contributor in reducing carbon emissions for the airline will be through the modernization of its Boeing 737 fleet. The airline continues to do away with its older 737-700 aircraft and move toward newer, more efficient models like the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 8, investing nearly $10 billion in aircraft orders.
In the company’s 2021 second quarter earnings release, Southwest acknowledged that its 2022 firm orders sit at 70 with the addition of 44 remaining options, bringing its order book with Boeing to 389 firm orders for the 737 MAX (240 MAX 7s and 149 MAX 8s) and 262 MAX options — for which the airline can select either MAX variant — for years 2021 through 2031.
Another effort of the airline will be through the replacement of 10% of total jet fuel consumption with more sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). It plans to achieve this through partnerships with companies like Neste, an oil refining company that will provide Southwest up to 5 million gallons of SAF through December 2023, as well as Marathon Petroleum Corporation and Phillips 66, with which it recently announced its memoranda of understanding to facilitate the development and production of SAF at significant scale.
Offsetting energy consumption will also play a vital role in becoming carbon neutral. This will be accomplished through exploration of new technologies as well as engaging in different partnering companies such as Customers and ChooseTM, which are offsetting carbon emissions in unique ways.
For example, they are providing the first U.S.-based airline carbon offset offer with loyalty points, and for every dollar contributed toward offsetting Southwest’s carbon emissions, Southwest will match the contribution. Southwest will also be launching the Green Incentive Program, a performance-based incentive program that provides corporate customers the opportunity to earn and use funds for their company’s sustainability initiatives, which could include offsets or other initiatives.
Southwest’s 10-year plan will extend far beyond the stated planned ten years. With plans to become completely carbon neutral by the year 2050. The 10-year plan is a glimpse into how they plan to achieve such an aggressive goal.