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  • Writer's pictureTeam CargoTalk

Flying into a sustainable future

While sustainability efforts may require additional investments, they are worthwhile for achieving long-term results. By following our action plan, we can manage costs, while simultaneously reducing our environmental impact.

Abigail Mathias & Ritika Arora Bhola

The development of long-term strategies to achieve a sustainable industry is key to guaranteeing the future of air cargo. The industry is committed to impacting the planet, while contributing to global prosperity through industry partnership. Having embraced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the guiding principles of its sustainability activities, we look at initiatives adopted by various entities within the field.

Nat Boonyavichkanont, CEO, Pattaya Aviation

Sustainability is of utmost importance to us. In this year, we have recognized that sustainability is crucial for the survival and success of businesses. As a leader in the aviation industry, we are committed to studying and implementing sustainable practices. By taking a proactive approach to sustainability, we inspire positive change in the industry and contribute to a better future for the next generation. Some of our sustainable practices include:

Energy efficiency: We prioritize energy efficiency by assessing and upgrading our facilities and equipment to reduce energy consumption.

By adopting energy-efficient technologies, we aim to decrease our carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable aviation industry.

Waste management: We have robust waste management practices in place, including proper waste segregation, recycling programs, and responsible disposal methods. We seek innovative solutions to minimize waste generation, maximize recycling efforts, and promote a circular economy.

Action plan with accountability: Setting clear and steadfast goals and holding individuals accountable for their sustainability efforts. By measuring results and improving our practices, we create momentum in our sustainability initiatives.

Employee engagement: We understand the importance of educating our employees about sustainability. Through training programmes, we ensure that our trainned team understands the impact of their actions and encourage them to contribute additional ideas for sustainability.

The aviation industry is increasingly aware of the implications of reducing carbon emissions. Carbon footprint has environmental consequences, including climate change, urban air pollution, and toxic acid rain.

As a responsible ground handling company, we understand and comprehend the need to address and mitigate them. Through sustainable practices, such as reducing carbon emissions and adopting cleaner technologies, we can make a difference in minimizing the carbon footprint in the industry.


While sustainability efforts would require additional investments, such as training costs and acquiring new equipment, they are, however, worthwhile for achieving long-term results. By following our action plan and committing to sustainability actions, we can effectively manage input costs, while simultaneously reducing our environmental impact.

Emma Deane, WFS, Regional Vice President, Business Development, AMEA

Sustainability is increasingly important at WFS. In 2022, WFS undertook a review of its ESG strategy with the help of an external Sustainability Team. This involved a full materiality assessment, several internal and external stakeholder interviews, a full document review and a series of strategy development workshops. The new strategy ‘Our Sustainable Flight Path’ was launched in May 2022 along with new governance via a monthly Group ESG Committee. WFS has made several commitments.

These include:

a. Converting 75 per cent of our fleet to EVs by 2030 (currently c. 26%).

b. Continuing to reduce GHG emissions by switching to renewable electricity sources, increasing energy efficiency and exploring alternative fuels with our airport operator partners.

c. Investing in improved data capture and tracking through Enablon’s ESG metrics suite.

d. Aligning with the United Nations SDGs by joining the UN Global Compact in 2023.

Awareness is increasing across the industry. We can see this from the number of initiatives market players took during this year’s World Environment Day to implement immediate and longer-term sustainability measures. WFS recently joined forces with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for The Sustainable Flight Challenge. The move aimed to inspire airlines and their partners to develop new ideas to influence future flying. Sustainability can drive beneficial environment and financial outcomes as we continue to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Our BKK team has achieved a 55 per cent reduction in energy use by transitioning to energy-efficient LED bulbs in the warehouse, thereby saving 775,000 kWh per year.

Glyn Hughes, Director General, The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA)

In recent years, the industry has taken onboard sustainability concerns and introduced many new programmes into their strategic and operational systems. From an environmental perspective, carriers are investing in SAF, partnering with major customers, working with partners to introduce more renewable energy-based equipment such as ground support equipment (GSE).

They are accelerating the replacement of single use plastic with biodegradable or recyclable alternatives. But sustainability is not about emissions, it is also about reducing the effect of noise and creating a better working environment attracting and retaining a diverse workforce. Going beyond their direct control, the industry is about creating connected markets enabling communities around the world to distribute their products to global markets, enabling global prosperity to be enhanced. The topic is important as we have a collective responsibility to the global society and our colleagues within the air cargo community. All industries and all companies must establish a sustainability strategy.

We conduct an annual sustainability survey and one of the questions we ask is, for whom is sustainability important? The answers broaden each year and the recent data revealed that it is important for employees, business partners, financial partners, customers, and regulators, so you could say improving sustainability credentials is a license to operate. As for TIACA, this topic has been placed at the top of priority list. We recently launched a new programme, TIACA BlueSky, which provides a service whereby a company can have their sustainability practices independently assessed.


I think the industry is aware of the impact in terms of emissions and carbon footprint, which is why so many organizations are prioritizing investments in this area. Sustainability is not an issue of choice but an issue of necessity. Improvements often require investments, but the consequences of no action are harmful to an organization’s reputation and ultimately bottom-line.

Particularly as mentioned previously, it is an area which is critical for stakeholders.

Tim Isik, Vice President, Commercial, Etihad Cargo

While the air cargo industry is moving in the right direction, we are seeing an increase in demand for more sustainable options.

There is still much to do if the sector is to reach its net zero targets by 2050. While achieving end-to-end sustainability in air cargo requires a holistic approach, we need to consider the entire air cargo supply chain, from the point of origin to the final destination.

While collaboration will be critical, Etihad Cargo is committed to accelerating the air cargo decarbonisation through partnerships, thereby contributing to a greener future. Sustainability can and will be a game changer in the industry, and the sector must be ready for it because the need is so great.

The world’s aviation sector is currently responsible for 2.5-3 per cent of all human-induced CO2 emissions worldwide, and this could increase up to 22 per cent of global emissions by 2050. As other sectors decarbonise more quickly, it is critical for the global air cargo to act now to invest in more sustainable solutions. In line with Abu Dhabi Environment Vision 2030 and IATA industry targets, Etihad Cargo is committed to achieving our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and is developing and adopting sustainable practices across our operations.

The carrier was the first middle eastern airline to join TIACA’s BlueSky sustainability verification programme, achieving an advanced rating against decarbonisation criteria, demonstrating our progress in investing in and deploying SAF, upgrading aerial fleets and ground vehicles to reduce carbon emissions, reducing energy consumption across its operations, and optimizing fleet utilization.

Etihad Cargo performs well in areas of partnerships and biodiversity protection. These results will act as an enabler for Etihad Cargo to advance our sustainability efforts, and we are targeting year or year progress.

Etihad Airways was recently named Environmental Airline of the Year 2023 for the second consecutive year at the Airline Ratings Awards, demonstrating our commitment to sustainable aviation.

Yossi Shoukroun, CEO, Challenge Group

We are embarking on a sustainable transformation journey that will help us in evolving into a purpose-driven company. Driven by the ESG goals and taking into consideration our eight different business units, covering different areas of the supply chain, we started by defining our high-level ambitions. For the Environment part, our ambition is to conduct a survey with internal and external stakeholders, and a materiality assessment.

We were able to decline our ambitions, define priorities and set credible targets: improve fuel efficiency and energy consumption, decarbonise/reduce GHG emissions. During several conferences last year, there was a call from stakeholders to have guidance on how to build a road map to mitigate the gap between big players and small and medium players.

Geert Aerts, Chief Cargo & Real Estate Officer, Brussels Airport

Sustainability is one of the three pillars in our strategy Shift 2027. If aviation wants a future, it must be sustainable. Sustainability is, therefore, at the core of everything we do. Brussels Airport Company has been CO2 neutral for its activities since 2018 and is working on achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. The airport makes every effort to be ready before the deadline.

Within the European Stargate project with Brussels Airport as project leader, many initiatives for greening aviation will be taken in the coming years. Since 1 January, SAF is delivered to Brussels Airport in a safe way via the NATO pipeline. Brussels Airport is linked to this pipeline and has been asking to receive SAF via this pipeline for some time. With our European Green Deal project ‘Stargate’, we work with a consortium of 21 partners.

Brandon Fried, Executive Director, Airforwarders Association (AfA)

Sustainability has become a key priority for the freight forwarding industry. In recent years, many forwarders have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact, such as investing in more fuel-efficient vehicles, including trucks, warehouse handling equipment, office lighting, and climate control systems.

The freight forwarding industry is committed to making the global air cargo industry more sustainable. With continued investment in new technologies and practices, the industry can reduce its environmental impact and operate more sustainably. Our industry faces pressure from governments, customers, and investors to reduce its environmental impact. The industry is still in the nascent stages of shifting to a more sustainable future, but there is a growing commitment to making this happen.

Jasraj Chug, Co-founder and Director, Cargoflash Infotech

Our commitment to sustainability is embodied in our core principle—go miles by going paperless. We have eliminated the need for physical paper documents using digital solutions such as e-AWBs and electronic documentation systems. This not only decreases our environmental effect, but also improves supply chain visibility, allowing businesses to spot inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement. By optimizing asset utilization, we aim to decrease the carbon footprint, while improving its financial performance. Many companies are recognizing the importance of reducing their environmental impact

and are implementing measures to achieve sustainability. From adopting fuel-efficient aircraft, optimizing routes, utilizing digital solutions, and embracing alternative fuels, the industry is taking significant steps.

Magali Beauregard, CCO, CargoAi

From the beginning, our mission is not just to steer procurement transactions based on prices. With Cargo2ZERO, our sustainability solution suite, we are leveraging our position between the carriers and forwarders, to steer these decisions towards the sustainable options available per booking.

In a nutshell, there are two sets of solutions—the suite of sustainability data and the SAF purchase. Firstly, we offer CO2 solution calculations, embedded in all workflows powered by CargoAi. On a shipment level, we are providing data to inform clients about their carbon footprint and how optimized their procurement decision is, using a CO2 efficiency score.

In late 2022, we announced a partnership with Neste, the leading SAF producer worldwide. Our goal is to enable any forwarder access to SAF at the transactional level for one booking or for bulk purchase for any volume share, ranging from 1-100 per cent SAF. Many small to middle-sized carriers have reached out to us to take a step forward with their own SAF offering. We are also working on a couple of projects to support clients in refining the sustainability data they work with. This year’s Tech Summer webinar will be focused on this topic, as we want to help educate the industry about the urgency needed for pivoting to radically more sustainable procurement decisions and give clients tangible solutions to reduce CO2 emissions.

I believe we are ready discounts the progress has been made, and frames the situation to look like we need to get “everything in place” before we begin. But this is not the case today. Many players have made strides to ensure the daily operations become more sustainable, and much of it has resulted in positive business results.

Fleet modernisation and SAF investment are examples of the industry recognizing the importance of environmental stewardship. While the global air cargo industry is making progress, there is still more work to be done. The combination of regulatory frameworks and industry collaboration must fill this gap.

Vishnu Rajendran, Area Manager Middle East, Cathay Pacific

One of our key initiatives is the Fly Greener Programme, which allows our customers to take part in offsetting the CO2 emissions generated from air cargo transportation. Through this programme, we offer customers the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets from high-quality projects focused on reducing or preventing CO2 emissions, with an emphasis on cleaner energy sources.

The Fly Greener Programme is an extension of the initiative launched by Cathay Pacific in 2007 for passenger travel. Building upon the positive impact we have achieved through offsetting 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, we have expanded the programme to include air cargo, providing our customers with a more sustainable cargo solution.

To determine the emissions associated with cargo shipments, we calculate them based on the weight of the cargo. The monetary contributions attributed to these emissions are directed towards funding third-party validated projects that offset the emissions generated during the transportation process.

Significance of sustainability

Sustainability is of importance to Cathay Cargo. We integrate sustainable practices into every aspect of our cargo operations, acknowledging our responsibility to future generations. Our Fly Greener Programme engages customers in reducing their environmental impact through certified carbon offset projects. We invest in fuel-efficient aircrafts, optimize flight routes, promote waste reduction and recycling, and foster sustainable partnerships. Sustainability is embedded in our corporate culture, driving positive change within our organization. It is not just a box to tick, but a core value that guides our actions and sets us apart as a responsible cargo airline committed to making a meaningful environmental impact, while delivering exceptional services.

There is a growing recognition that the industry’s carbon emissions contribute to climate change and environmental degradation. In recent years, the stakeholders have been working to address their carbon footprint. Airlines, cargo operators, and industry associations have been striving to reduce carbon emissions through operational improvements, such as optimizing flight routes, reducing aircraft weight, and improving fuel efficiency.

IATA’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation demonstrates the air cargo industry’s commitment to addressing its environmental impact. It aims to achieve carbon-neutral growth in global aviation by offsetting emissions using carbon credits.

Celine Hourcade, Managing Director, Change Horizon

Sustainability being the core expertise of Change Horizon, we help our clients/customers to understand why it matters to their financial and commercial success, identify the regulations they need to comply with, help them define their sustainability priorities, ambitions, and action plans. We partner with TIACA to drive the sustainability agenda, including the BlueSky assessment and validation programme, and the annual sustainability survey and report dedicated to the air cargo industry.

This year, we have built a series of webinars titled ‘Do you speak ESG?’ to educate professionals on sustainability concepts. We are building a series of training on sustainability in air cargo, both online and physical training sessions.

The air cargo industry is not ready yet, which is why it is important to raise awareness so as to help every company start their sustainable transformation journey. And that is the passion, mission, and commitment at Change Horizon.

Allen Paxson, Vice President and General Manager, Commercial Programs Strategy, GE Aerospace. The aviation industry is committed to the goal of achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, while also recognizing the need to accelerate efforts and ensure all key stakeholders are on the playing field. While GE Aerospace and our partner engines powering three-quarters of the world’s flights, we recognize the responsibility that we must meet the industry ramp efficiently for our customers.

Thomas Gregory, CEO & Co-founder, Fusion Specialized Shipping & Logistics

The airlines we are associated with, adopt measures towards sustainability of which alternate fuels and carbon offsetting take center stage. The other measures undertaken towards sustainability include fleet modernisation, sustainable packaging, and effective ground operations.

Many airlines are conducting SAF test flights and collaborating with biofuel producers. Investing in projects that reduce or remove greenhouse gases, such as reforestation initiatives or renewable energy projects enable us to offset our own carbon footprint. Sustainability is crucial for our organization as it aligns our growth with environmental and social responsibility. Just like the pax airline industry, cargo carriers recognize the importance of sustainability and are taking steps to mitigate emissions.

To manage their carbon footprint, cargo airlines often conduct assessments analysing the emissions, including direct ones from aircraft fuel combustion and indirect ones from ground operations and infra. These assessments help them identify areas of high emissions. While there may be some upfront investments required, the potential benefits and cost reductions related with sustainability initiatives can outweigh the initial expenses.

Lothar Moehle, Executive Director, Cargo iQ

Sustainability is not about being more environmentally friendly, but about making the sector function effectively and efficiently. Cargo iQ’s work to enhance quality, standards, and visibility in shipment handling to prevent damage and loss of cargo is fundamental to improving the industry’s overall sustainability. The more smoothly the operations run, the fewer resources are wasted in rectifying mistakes.

Cargo iQ is working on several projects where our members aim to improve planning and control. With our Care Protocol initiative, our members will be able to combine schedule-based planning of processes with product-specific needs at the various interfaces and handling points. This could, for example, be the temperature control at transit station, where the GHA cannot only offer, but can be instructed to ensure that a pharma shipment will be kept in a temperature-controlled environment, customized for the product, while in the care of the GHA. Another project is our Road Feeder Services (RFS) optimization activity, where our members will be able to plan RFS legs and processes such as flight operations, to decrease dwell and waiting times for trucks at terminal forecourts. In all conferences and meetings, the SAF replacing kerosene is not only talked about, but several airlines and forwarders are offering their customers this option. Although SAF is expensive, forwarders and shippers are willing to invest in achieving a clear environment.

Besides SAF, many other actions are being taken as well—battery-powered vans and trucks, using environmentally friendly covers for pallets against rain and snow, replacing paper-based processes (e-AWB) with electronic devices, warehouses being equipped with LED lights, and more landlords fitting photovoltaic modules to generate clean electricity.

These are just a few initiatives our members are fully engaged in. Many small puzzle pieces will lead to a full picture in the future, and I know from many discussions that the industry, and in particular our members, are not just talking, but acting.

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