THE GURU • September 2021
Carrie Harris has been working in the field of environmental sustainability for 25 years. With the launch of a pioneering new programme, BA Better World, she shares her in-depth knowledge of the future of greener communities and air travel and why British Airways is leading the way on tackling climate change
What sustainability projects are in the pipeline at British Airways?
Our most exciting news is the launch of BA Better World, our new sustainability programme, putting sustainability right at the heart of British Airways. We’ve described it as our most important journey yet because it’s a vital part of what we want to stand for as we recover from the pandemic. The programme is focused on three pillars: people, planet and responsible business. For our people, it’s about creating a great place to work that’s inspiring, diverse and inclusive. On the planet side, there is a huge focus on climate, as well as resources and reducing waste. On the responsible business side, we will be engaging more proactively with our customers and looking at how we can contribute further to the communities where we are operating.
What has motivated British Airways’ sustainability agenda in the past?
British Airways has been an industry leader in sustainability for more than 20 years, with a strong focus on climate and community engagement. We were the first airline to report carbon emissions, the first to engage voluntarily in emissions trading schemes and, as part of IAG, the first to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our community engagement has seen a long-standing history with Comic Relief and Flying Start, raising more than £26m for great causes. Sustainability has evolved over the past few years. Now, it is a cross-cutting issue throughout the whole business as we recognise its importance for employees, customers and investors. That’s why we’ve strengthened our commitments with BA Better World.
What changes can customers expect on their travels with British Airways?
Our main goal is to have sustainability embedded in the British Airways culture and the customer experience. For example, one of the new features we announced with BA Better World is the opportunity for customers to reduce their emissions with a choice of carbon offsets or to be among the first people globally to purchase sustainable aviation fuel along with verified carbon offsets to reduce emissons associated with their flights. This facility is available via our charity partner Pure Leapfrog at BA Fly Carbon Neutral, and illustrates the progress that has been made bringing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) from concept to current reality. SAF can reduce lifecycle emissions by 80 per cent or more compared with traditional fossil-based jet fuel.
British Airways chairman and CEO Sean Doyle unveils a brand new livery to mark the launch of the BA Better World programme
We have already made progress in the reduction of single-use plastics and in food waste. We’ve got a whole programme of exciting waste initiatives and product improvements, which will be announced over the coming months, so customers can expect to see much more.
And what is going on behind the scenes?
We’re taking immediate action to reduce unnecessary fuel burn and emissions, from decreasing the weight on board our aircraft and investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft to using a 100 per cent renewable electricity supply at London Heathrow and Gatwick and exploring opportunities for cleaner ground-based vehicles. The key thing about BA Better World is making this visible to our customers and enabling even more action along these lines.
Can you tell us about the changes to British Airways’ community engagement?
Comic Relief and Flying Start have been highly successful, with colleagues and customers really enjoying getting involved. Our BA Better World Community Fund is about building on this. In addition to charitable fundraising, it will enable the allocation of grants from British Airways based on applications that meet sustainability criteria. We will be able to provide more aid where and when it is needed, including disaster emergency response. We’ve already helped more than 800,000 people and our aim is to reach one million.
Where do you see the airline’s future in terms of sustainability?
As well as taking short-term action, BA Better World is about the long term, too. We’ve committed that by 2030, ten per cent of our flights will be powered by sustainable aviation fuel, which is made from waste that would otherwise go to landfill or from waste gases or other materials. We’re also working with innovative startups to develop zero emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft and carbon capture technology. We think that by 2050 our long-haul flights could be operating entirely on sustainable aviation fuel while a lot of our short-haul European operations could be on zero emissions hydrogen or hybrid aircraft. Ultimately, that is what will get us to decarbonise to net zero.
What are you most excited about?
The energy and motivation across the business and with our customers as people engage with BA Better World. As society wakes up to the need to act urgently on climate change, we want people to know we care and that we’re taking action with a very ambitious vision. The programme is already gathering momentum and I’m excited because I think greater things can happen.