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Airline sustainability disclosure still lacking on a global scale

Analysis

When consumers and companies want to assess the environmental impact of their air travel, information is the most vital commodity.

Yet, the aviation industry generally is still doing a poor job when it comes to reporting and disclosure around environmental metrics such as fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable aviation fuel uptake and other measures.

The 2023 edition of the CAPA-Envest Sustainability Benchmarking and Rating Report shows that while there has been some improvement in public reporting by airlines, measuring and comparing environmental performance between airlines remains a difficult task.

Summary

  • The quality and clarity of sustainability reporting varies wildly between individual airlines, and there is little standardisation concerning level of disclosure or the metrics used.
  • Just five airlines or airline groups in the latest version of the CAPA-Envest report achieved a full 5 out of 5 for disclosure of key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • In comparison, there were 23 airlines with a disclosure score of zero.
  • European airlines ranked highest in terms of disclosure of environmental KPIs.
  • DOWNLOAD the CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking & Rating Report 2023.

Sustainability report

Reporting varies wildly between airlines, geographies and business models

The quality and clarity of reporting varies wildly between individual airlines, and there is little standardisation concerning level of disclosure or the metrics used. As the report notes, airline disclosure around environmental metrics is “largely incomplete, non-standardised and difficult to access”.

There are also broader swings in ranking performance between geographic regions, along with substantial variations when it comes to operating and ownership models.

Just five airlines or airline groups of the 106 that were scored in the latest version of the CAPA-Envest report achieved a full 5 out of 5 for disclosure of key performance indicators (KPIs).

In comparison, there were 23 airlines with a disclosure score of zero – meaning they made no public disclosure of environmental performance indicators or proxies for environmental performance, such as fuel use or fuel costs.

A further 25 airlines scored just 1 out of 5 for disclosure.

CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Disclosure scores

Disclosure

Europe

Asia Pacific

North America

South America

Africa

Middle East

Total

5/5

4

1

0

0

0

0

5

4/5

7

6

6

1

0

1

21

3/5

7

8

2

3

1

1

22

2/5

2

4

2

0

0

1

10

1/5

10

9

2

3

0

1

25

0/5

6

7

1

1

2

6

23

European airlines ranked among the highest in terms of disclosure of environmental KPIs.

Airlines based in Europe accounted for four of the five airlines with a disclosure rating of 5, and seven of the 21 airlines ranked from the region achieved a disclosure rating of 4 out of 5.

This is not to say that airlines in the region can’t do better – nearly half of all European airlines rated scored either a 0 or a 1 for disclosure. This includes some major flag carriers and network airlines with notable sustainability programmes (and marketing campaigns).

Some of these airlines are foundational members of Europe’s consolidated aviation groups, which have excellent reporting of KPIs at the group levels but obscure or omit reporting at the individual airline level.

A similar story is seen in some of the large aviation groups in the Asia Pacific, where group-wide metrics are provided, but metrics for subsidiary airlines are absent.   

Also outstanding in terms of disclosure performance were airlines in North America.

Although no airline from that region was ranked in the top category for disclosure, six of the 13 airlines rated from the region scored a 4 out of 5 for disclosure of their KPIs.

Additionally, just a single North American airline was rated at 0 for disclosure and only two were scored at 1 out of 5. This reflects the stringent reporting requirements in the US and the region’s move to adopt environmental, social and governance performance disclosure in recent years.

Also notable in North America was the poor disclosure performance of low cost carriers.

Although two LCCs achieved ratings of 4 out of 5, regional LCCs generally scored much lower than full service airlines when it came reporting sustainability KPIs.

The Middle East was the worst-performing region when it came to disclosure.

Of the 10 airlines ranked in the region, six scored zero for disclosure of environmental KPIs.

Some of the region’s largest and most profitable airlines were among the best-performing for disclosure in the region – an example that could lead others to raise their performance in this arena.

CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Disclosure: performance by region

The industry’s disclosure efforts around its emissions remain patchy, with little observable progress to standardisation.

At the same time, reporting standards from national or multi-national aviation authorities remain few and far between. Compared to financial reporting, where the airline industry largely complies with general accounting principles, reporting of environmental metrics is woeful.

With emissions taking on ever greater importance for individual travellers, corporations, and even investors and other stakeholders, the time has come for the airlines to step up with their sustainability reporting.

Third edition of the CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking & Rating Report now available

In Oct-2021 CAPA – Centre for Aviation (CAPA), in partnership with Envest Global, published its initial Airline Sustainability Benchmarking Report, that report being the first step in providing insights into the status of airline decarbonisation and one that was designed to assist decision-making by a broad range of stakeholders.

This, the third edition of the CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking & Rating Report, continues these key themes.

It provides detailed analysis into a “post-COVID-19” operating environment for the aviation sector and, importantly, insights into the aviation industry's pathway to Net Zero.

Benefits of the Report:

  • Provides a transparent, data-driven assessment of airline sustainability.
  • Establishes an independent, standardised rating system based on emissions for airlines.
  • Allows airlines to compare and contrast their sustainability results with industry counterparts.
  • Assists corporate travel buyers in identifying the most carbon-efficient airlines.
  • Supports Travel Management Companies (TMCs) in understanding airline emissions and helping clients achieve internal targets.
  • Informs investors and financiers about the relative sustainability ratings of airlines.
  • Fosters a competitive market where environmental responsibility is key.
  • Allows investors to understand airlines' green efforts, aligning with the industry's shift towards net-zero operations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking & Rating Report 2023

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