Driving the aviation industry toward a sustainable future

Driving the aviation industry toward a sustainable future
Jan 6, 2022
3 MIN. READ

Aviation expert Alastair Blanshard guides airports and airlines toward their net zero carbon emission goals

alastair blanshard headshot

Reducing the environmental impact from global aviation is no small feat. But sustainable aviation lead Alastair Blanshard is definitely up for the challenge.

He leads a team that works with airlines, airports, investors, and governments across the globe to improve the sustainability of the aviation industry. Developing and implementing decarbonization strategies. Working with airlines to understand, identify, and purchase sustainable fuels. And supporting organizations across the aviation value chain to measure, mitigate, and report on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors.

“We bring deep expertise to many of the most complex areas in the industry, from sustainable fuels and carbon markets to novel aerospace technologies.” — Alastair Blanshard

We combine industry knowledge with a practical understanding of how airlines, airports, and the wider supply chain work to offer our clients support that is useful, pragmatic, and meaningful. “We’re doing some fascinating projects at the moment, ranging from cross-market climate strategy to detailed implementation,” says Alastair.

The path to net zero

In 2021, Alastair and his team supported the Airports Council International’s net zero by 2050 pledge—addressing over 20 million tonnes of annual carbon emissions. In partnership with Airbiz, our team analyzed historical airport emissions, investigated pathways to reduce these emissions, and engaged with global airports to understand the practicality, opportunities, and challenges of achieving this goal.

His team has also worked with the Air Transport Action Group to assess and detail the economic, technological, and environmental considerations when deploying sufficient sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to achieve the airline industries ambition for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This report supported the subsequent International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) net zero by 2050 commitment.

And they’ve worked with several airlines in the U.S. and Europe to accelerate their use of SAF — including advising JetBlue on one of the largest purchases of SAF to date and signing on as one of their inaugural partners.

Alastair explains, “SAF is critical to the airline sector’s net zero carbon ambitions, with IATA estimating it’ll be crucial for up to two-thirds of the emission reduction by our sector by 2050. It’s exciting to be working with airlines, producers, and governments to pioneer the development of this industry!“

Impact of COP26

In late 2021, Alastair brought his expertise to the COP26 aviation event in Glasgow, Scotland, serving as a panelist alongside SAF pioneers Velocys and JetBlue. There he shared the possible roadmap—based on findings in our Fueling Net Zero report—for increasing the use SAF by nearly 8,000 times to meet IATA’s net zero target.

During the event, 20 countries and other industry stakeholders announced the launch of a coalition to reduce carbon emissions from aviation. Alastair says, “It was clear in Glasgow that the aviation industry has embraced net zero emissions ambitions and is now on the offensive. We attended and presented at several sessions and side events, and it was great to see such a cross-section of the aviation industry—with airlines, airports, manufacturers, startups, and many others all in the same room and really embracing the challenge.”

A history of sustainability

But even with the decades of work that have gone into aviation sustainability, we’re just getting started. We have a deep heritage in aviation advisory services—we started doing this work way before it was cool!

As a company, we’ve always been committed to sustainability with reducing and offsetting our travel-related emissions since 2006 as part of our sustainability strategy. And this year, we were the first company to buy SAF certificates from British Airways to reduce the impact of our staff travel emissions. In 2021, our efforts were recognized with the highest possible climate score from CDP, putting us in the top 2% of the nearly 12,000 companies that were scored.

“Moving the industry toward sustainability is a mammoth effort, and the culture of collaboration across the industry really does make it a joy to be working in this field.”

For those looking for a career in the sustainable aviation field, Alastair advises that it’s not a challenge anyone will solve alone. The aviation industry has been through seismic shifts, with sustainability being the next one, and arguably the most important challenge our industry will face. He says, “It’s both exciting and exhausting!”

 

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