New figures have revealed Virgin Atlantic’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 12 per cent showing increased profitability and reduced environmental impact can go hand in hand.
The latest figures are in Virgin Atlantic’s 2015 ‘Change is in the Air’ Sustainability Report, which covers the airline’s progress against its environment and community investment programmes.
In 2014, Virgin Atlantic operated more flights and carried more people than any year since 2007 – but its absolute carbon footprint was 12 per cent down since this baseline. This can largely be attributed to the airline’s $7bn investment in state of the art, fuel and carbon efficient Airbus 330-300 and Boeing 787-9 fleet. By the end of last year, Virgin Atlantic had taken delivery of its first two of at least 17 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft, which are already proving to be about 30 per cent more efficient than the aircraft they have replaced.
Today’s report shows Virgin Atlantic is moving steadily towards its target of achieving 30 per cent savings in CO2 for every tonne of passengers and cargo flown (Revenue Tonne Kilometre, RTK*) between 2007 and 2020, with a CO2 reduction of 10 per cent per RTK since 2007 and, thanks to its expanding fleet of Dreamliners, well on course to meet its target. Last year was also a quieter year for the airline, having reduced its average noise output per aircraft movement by over 2dB. As the first airline to set itself noise targets and implement an Aircraft Noise Management Strategy, Virgin Atlantic received the Quiet Mark certification and an award for its approach.
Another key element of Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Change is in the Air’ sustainability programme is its work with charity partner Free The Children. In 2014 the Virgin Atlantic Foundation distributed over £1.4 million from onboard customer donations, staff fundraising, volunteering time and flights. The airline was also co-title supporter of ‘We Day’ in March 2015 for the second year. 12,000 students and teachers from schools across the UK earned their way to the SSE (Wembley) Arena to hear inspirational speeches, musical performances and celebrate positive social change.
Craig Kreeger, Virgin Atlantic CEO, said: “Being an environmentally and socially responsible business is absolutely integral to our brand values, our people and our customers.
“Across Virgin Atlantic our teams are driving innovation, and this plays a particularly important role in making sure any growth and new ideas are delivered in a sustainable way. Our latest sustainability figures show that profitability can be de-coupled from carbon, which is fantastic news for our airline and our industry.
“Last year we successfully delivered on our recovery plan, posting a profit for the year ending December 2014, and we are now looking to an even more sustainable future, in every sense of the word.”
Within its report, Virgin Atlantic also revealed that:
- The airline has cut its energy use across all its UK sites by 23% since 2008-09, exceeding its 2014-15 targets by almost 12 per cent.
- Through innovative solutions to waste management the airline has diverted 92 per cent of its ground waste from landfill. This includes food waste which is now segregated and sent to anaerobic digesters. The airline also recycles as much aircraft waste as possible and finds innovative ways to do so. This includes recycling aircraft seat foams into carpet underlay.
- As well as focussing on its biggest environmental and social impacts, Virgin Atlantic is also passionate about what its customers directly experience. For example, the airline is setting the bar for sustainably-sourced food and drink onboard and in its Clubhouses, with standards including fair trade, animal welfare, sustainable fish, palm oil and soy amongst others.
- Through its cargo operations the airline helps with conservation projects. In November 2014 the airline carried 57 critically endangered mountain chicken frogs from the UK to the Caribbean.
- Virgin Atlantic’s international development projects in eight villages in rural India, China, Ghana and Kenya have benefited 13,488 men, women and children to date. Nearly 2,000 children now attend school regularly; over 5,000 people have been provided with local regular healthcare services; and over 10,000 people have been provided with clean water in their communities.
- The airline’s 2014 staff fundraising campaign ‘Make 30 Magic’ raised over £200,000 to deliver some ‘magic touches’ to help children play and have some fun by giving 30 special gifts to our India communities.