Air NZ launches new initiatives for sustainability

Chris LuxtonAir New Zealand has launched a new sustainability framework to help propel the country's social, economic and environmental success. Chief executive Christopher Luxon launched the framework on Wednesday and also announced a sustainability advisory panel, which includes British environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt and New Zealand entrepreneur and environmentalist Rob Fenwick.

"Given the significance of this business to New Zealand we have signed ourselves up to a mission and purpose bigger than ourselves – that is to supercharge New Zealand's success," Luxon said.

Luxon said it was the airline's goal to put sustainability at the heart of its business model focusing on sustained economic growth, positive social impact and reduced environmental impact.

"The reality is people want jet travel. But there's no hiding from it - it has an environmental negative and that's because the industry globally contributes around 2 to 4 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

The company had a longterm plan to improve fuel efficiency, reduce net carbon emissions and see carbon neutral growth.

Luxon said the goals required the company to grow more than 30 per cent in the next five years and expected emissions to increase by 19 per cent.

"We're going to have to really run hard at that target and take a focus around better fuel efficiency, alternative fuels and carbon off setting," he said.

In 2008 Air New Zealand launched an aviation test flight powered by biofuel jatropha, but Luxon said the carbon footprint of jatropha was too "prohibitive" .

Projects around alternative fuels proposed by Air New Zealand in previous years did not come  to fruition and it was a challenging part of the business to think about, Luxon said.

The advisory panel included biofuels expert from the United States Suzanne Hunt.

British environmentalist Porritt has been involved with environmental issues since the early 1970s.

He said many companies that placed sustainability at the bottom of the priority list were in the aviation industry.

"Sustainability for many companies around the world is literally the last thing they want in their life at this time," he said.

"Ever since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 looked at what their responsibilities might mean in practical terms, more often than not [companies] turned away from that analysis and knowledge about their impact on society and hoped somehow it would go away."

But Porritt said this was changing and he felt Air New Zealand wanted to "own the challenge" of tackling sustainability, which was "practically the hardest issue for an airline".

Air New Zealand also announced a number of other sustainability commitments, including, a new supplier code of conduct, an extension of the airline's partnership with the Department of Conservation and an extension of the airline's sponsorship of Antarctica new Zealand and the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute.

READ MORE: Air NZ to grow domestic operation

Auckland University of Technology senior marketing lecturer Dr Ann-Marie Kennedy has researched the perceptions of corporate sustainability and said Air New Zealand's framework seemed like a genuine approach to the issue.

"It looks like that green philosophy is permeating through all of their decisions, which is what we would call actual sustainability rather than greenwashing," she said.

Greenwashing was where companies marketed themselves as sustainable but did little to show they were actually sustainable or believed in sustainability.

Kennedy said sustainability was about looking after the "triple bottom line" of people, profit and planet, which seemed to inform Air New Zealand's sustainability initiatives.

"You can't help people without having money and you can't put money into the environment without having it," she said.

 - Stuff