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European airlines dominate upper rankings in CAPA-Envest global airline sustainability benchmarking

Analysis

More than any other region globally, Europeans are engaged with the concept of sustainability. According to the EU statistics agency Eurobarometer, EU citizens believe climate change is the single most serious problem facing the world, with 93% considering it to be a 'serious' problem, and 78% considering it to be 'very serious'. As a percentage, 94% of Europeans say protecting the environment is 'important' to them, and 53% say it is 'very important'.

This concern about sustainability has an impact on consumers' behaviour around travel and tourism. A Eurobarometer survey from Oct-2021 found a large majority of EU citizens (82%) are prepared to change at least some of their travel and tourism habits to be more sustainable. This includes choosing transport options based on their ecological impact (36% of respondents), paying more in order to protect the natural environment (35%), and contributing to carbon-offsetting activities (34%).

It should not be particularly surprising that European airlines are among the leaders when it comes to the sustainability and the environmental performance of their business.

Summary
  • European airlines have excellent environmental performance compared to their global peers.
  • Seven out of the eight airlines/airline groups awarded a 'Platinum' Sustainability Rating are based in Europe.
  • Five out of the nine airlines/airline groups awarded a 'Gold' Sustainability Rating are based in Europe.
  • European airlines dominate the top rankings for CO2 emissions per RPK (revenue passenger kilometer).
  • European airlines are more transparent in disclosing key sustainability performance metrics compared to airlines from other regions.
  • European airlines are leading in the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), with eight of the top 12 airlines in terms of SAF usage being based in Europe.

Summary

  • CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking and Rating Report 2022 shows that airlines from Europe tend to have excellent environmental performance compared to their peers.
  • The Rating report benchmarks the environmental performance of the world's 100 largest airlines.
  • Of the eight airlines/airline groups awarded a 'Platinum' Sustainability Rating, seven are based in Europe.
  • Of the nine airlines/airline groups awarded a 'Gold' Sustainability Rating, five are based in Europe.

Airlines from Europe have excellent environmental performance compared to their peers

The CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking and Rating Report 2022, which benchmarks the environmental performance of the world's 100 largest airlines, shows that airlines from Europe tend to have excellent environmental performance compared to their peers.

Of the eight airlines/airline groups awarded a 'Platinum' Sustainability Rating, seven are based in Europe.

Of the nine airlines/airline groups awarded a 'Gold' Sustainability Rating, five are based in Europe.

CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Benchmarking and Ratings for 2022 by region

Rating

Europe

Middle East &

Africa

North America

South America

Asia Pacific

Total

Platinum

7

1

8

Gold

5

1

2

1

9

Silver

13

3

6

4

12

38

Bronze

4

2

2

1

20

29

Blue

6

2

1

7

16

This is reflected in the report's assessments of per unit emissions.

European airlines represented seven of the 10 airlines that scored best in terms of CO2 emissions per RPK, and 12 of the top 20.

Given the importance of environmental issues to Europeans and their travel decisions, a key distinguishing feature of European airlines when it comes to sustainability is their public availability of key sustainability performance metrics, as well as the level and accuracy of reporting.

For consumers, environmental data remains difficult to come by

Disclosure of metrics such as fuel use, CO2 emissions, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) use or carbon offsetting is a fundamental step in allowing key stakeholders to scrutinise performance, and in making buying and/or investment decisions accordingly.

However, even in Europe consumers consider this information difficult to come by: Eurobarometer reported only 9% of Europeans consider it 'very easy' to find trustworthy information on the carbon footprint of transportation options, with 17% finding it 'very difficult'.

EU citizens: ease of finding trustworthy information for travel planning (Nov-2021)

Of the 11 airlines awarded the maximum Disclosure rating of 4 under the CAPA-Envest Global Airline Sustainability Report, eight of these are based in Europe.

Further to this, of the 19 airlines/airline groups which published information on carbon offset purchasing, 11 were from Europe.

Of the airlines that did make public disclosures of this information, eight of the top nine purchasers of carbon offsets were European-based airlines.

Three of those European airlines also published information on carbon offsets purchased by customers.

When it comes to reported CO2 emissions vs CO2 emissions calculated from declared fuel use, European airlines were typically within a +/- 1% range.

Reporting in North America was also generally in good agreement between reported CO2 emissions vs CO2 emissions calculated from declared fuel use, although there was a tendency towards overreporting of emissions.

In comparison, there was a tendency of airlines based in the Asia Pacific to underreport CO2 emissions compared to CO2 calculated from fuel use.

European airlines also ranked particularly well in terms of Sustainable Aviation Fuel use.

In terms of tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and used, there were eight European airlines in the top 12.

Largest 12 airlines by reported SAF use and region

Three of these European airlines also reported that SAF made up more than 0.25% of their total fuel use in 2021.

While this seems a tiny amount, IATA estimates that around 80,000 tonnes of SAF were used in 2021, representing less than 0.05% of the approximately 175 billion tonnes of fuel airlines consumed over the year.

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