An opportunity to make positive changes
At SITA we watch the numbers around air travel growth carefully. It’s hardly surprising as it’s a key consideration for the industry we’re owned by, and the customers that we serve. Increasing traveler numbers is a good thing, right?
Balancing the impacts
There are certainly benefits, from the well-received wisdom that travel broadens the mind, to economic growth and opportunity. However, it’s impossible to separate these benefits from the environmental impact, and this has formed the basis of many discussions around how to balance the two. It’s something I often find myself challenged on as the head of corporate social responsibility for a company that’s dedicated to aviation. In a company like ours, with a global customer base, tackling air travel emissions is an interesting challenge, but also an opportunity to make positive changes. So how are we addressing this at SITA?
First; we have implemented reporting that allows us to measure our environmental impact from air travel. We know what our annual air mileage and emissions are, enabling us to benchmark year on year and track our progress.
Second; we’ve put in place technologies that have helped us to reduce our own carbon footprint, such as collaboration software and video conferencing that allows us to communicate with our colleagues and partners. But a degree of travel is still inevitable, which leaves us with an impact that we need to mitigate.
This is where the third part comes into play – using carbon credits to offset our emissions while investing into social and environmental programs that support green energy, biodiversity and community development.
Carbon neutral air travel
In 2018 we implemented a new initiative to carbon offset all air travel that could not be avoided through technology or best practices. We took an innovative approach and applied an internal carbon levy for each ton of CO2e generated. Thanks to this, we’ve been able to fund two programs that have supported biodiversity and renewable energy, working with Natural Capital Partners.
Our first program focused on the Rimba Raya biodiversity reserve in Borneo – an area that has been devastated by palm oil plantations. The support from SITA helps to preserve carbon-dense tropical peat swamps and conserve the habitat of endangered orangutans, as well as assist community development inside the reserve. I had the privilege to spend some time on site learning about the program, and while it’s clear there is much to be achieved, I saw a strong sense of commitment and dedication from the organizations who work locally.
We’ve also funded the growing and planting of 25,000 mangrove seedlings which will help to protect against coastal erosion and restore essential natural habitats. It’s an activity which will encourage local groups to get hands on with the planting activity while providing additional income for villagers.
Solar power for communities
Around 15 schools in Tamil Nadu benefited this year from digital classroom capability provided by SITA, with each receiving solar power, a small portable drive with 64gb of curriculum content installed, and a low wattage display screen. I visited the project and saw first-hand how the children and teachers were engaged with a fresh way to learn, and classes were definitely lively!
Schools weren’t the only ones to benefit. Our support has helped Selco Solar to implement 7,500 lights, 500 heaters, and 300 photovoltaic systems to communities and small businesses. Access to solar can have far reaching impacts in terms of safety, education and empowerment and I’ll be following up with some of the recipients and sharing their stories.
A continual journey
Over the coming years I expect to see continued and accelerated action to be necessary as the climate change impacts are evaluated in response to today’s initiatives.
And when I look at our business and our people, I see change happening. I hear debate around the environment and what we are doing – as well as a wider interest in what our customers, partners and our industry is doing to address climate change, and how we can help.
In summary, being a responsible business makes us a better business; for us, our people, our communities and the environment, and leading the way from a sustainability standpoint makes me proud to be a part of it.