Come Diwali and we have a lot of people talking about smoke, smog, pollution, environmental protection and whatnot. The recent Pirali crop burning scene and we have political parties taking sides. One very funny thing that gets discussed every time though is how it is the flight takes, packaged water drinking elites who tell people about pollution while they are sitting in a fully air-conditioned office. Now, at the risk of offending anyone, there is one thing that we would mention- we will not be talking about most of the stuff we just mentioned but we will talk about sustainability in the aviation sector.

You see, the Indian middle class, the gentry that travels the most is now stepping up the ladder and a lot of them (we included) have reached a point where they value time over money. In such a case, it is slightly unrealistic to expect someone to travel from Chennai to Faridabad via train. They would rather take a 2-hour 45-minute flight and save time. With this mindset in place, one cannot blame the aviation ministry or the industry stalwarts for starting multiple flights and having full-fledged airports in as many cities as possible.

Sustainability, as we keep mentioning time and again isn’t about prioritising one over hte other, it is about striking a balance such that all the stakeholders feel that they gained. With this view in mind, we are presenting six very practical actions that airlines can take to make the entire industry more sustainable.

Start with the integration

Not so surprisingly, most aviation companies, haven’t yet included sustainability into their business strategies. We cannot really blame them as well, the costs of fuel are too much, there are so many overheads to be taken care of, the competition is increasing, the policies aren’t as conducive and what not. There are just so many things that need to be taken care of for mere survival. In such a situation, sustainability becomes a luxury. However, with the support of the government, let’s say, an option is put forth (after considering the due economics) that a certain subsidy shall be given to the airlines should they choose to maintain the greenery of a certain region. This could be a probable win-win. We feel that with such incentives in place, can really push the cause.

Assess the Operations and Improvise

The IPCSS frames what it calls a “carbon budget” and keep updating it frequently to suit the existing conditions. The target is simple- to reduce carbon emissions. Now, the good thing here is that these carbon emissions don’t have to be about fuel alone. They include everything from the onboard offering, to even the office supplies. Collective initiatives by the airlines with the airport authorities can help curb and optimise a lot of such unnecessary emissions. 

Managing the SAF Uptake

SAFs are the key to assessing the full value stack of the probably sustainability solutions at the offer. These include regulatory incentives, lower costs for the offsetting obligations, and multiple hedging and reputational benefits. While these differ by region, yet, they can have a long term overarching impact on the entire aviation scenario. Collaborations with corporations in the aviation value chain form a crucial factor in the success of this initiative

Investing in Future Technologies

This goes without saying because whatever we have today and wherever we want to be tomorrow, the answer lies in supporting technological development. The decarbonisation of the industry requires development in not just electric but also in hybrid, hydrogen propulsion, aerodynamics, and carbon capture technologies. Now, the firms do not have to develop the technologies on their own, rather, they can invest in the firms developing the said technologies and look at making them their subsidiaries. United Airlines’ investment in 1PointFive is a major example to give for this.

Some Lobbying Helps

This might have raised some brows and ears but in all honesty, it is worth it. The problem is that we in India are still warming up to the concept of lobbying. Now, whether it is ethical or not is another debate but what is a lobby but a group of people who believe in a cause trying to influence others? Thus, by supporting and steering dedicated sustainability groups with their lobbying efforts, the firms can try and push for more reforms too.

Transparency- a change of Mindset

Last but not least, the firms need to understand the true meaning of sustainability. They need to stop thinking that sustainability is something that would eat their profits. Rather, it needs to be seen that sustainability is about creating a win-win situation for all. We feel, that once this is understood, a lot of other things will fall in place by default.

At the end of the day, we need to understand that it isn’t the fight of environment conservationists or capitalists or socialists or any other ist that you can think of. It’s about finding a middle ground where everyone can meet and prosper.

To hope that just the aviation industry would become the hero and save the world, is humanly unrealistic. When we after so much of prods forget to turn the tap off, or throw that plastic bottle just like that- just because there is no incentive; imagine the dollars these industrialists are dealing in.

So, would they not need some incentive?

Just trying to play fair!

What are your thoughts on this? Do let us know