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Finnair’s "anti-carbon" programme poised to lift aviation's ambition-level

Finnish national air carrier Finnair has revealed what it describes as the "most ambitious sustainability strategy in the aviation industry" to banish carbon from its operations. Finnair intends to reduce its net emissions by 50 percent by the end of 2025 from the 2019 baseline and achieve carbon neutrality latest by 2045. The plans clearly exceed the aviation industry’s common targets.  

Finnish national air carrier Finnair has revealed what it describes as the “most ambitious sustainability strategy in the aviation industry” to banish carbon from its operations.

According to a statement on March 6, 2020, the new strategy includes a holistic approach to transform Finnair’s operations to dramatically reduce the company’s climate footprint. The main actions to tackle the carbon challenge are:

  • A EUR 3.5-4  billion investment in the fleet during 2020–2025, reducing emissions in Finnair’s European traffic by 10–15 percent;
  • Investing EUR 60 million in sustainability during the strategy period of 2020–2025;
  • Reduction of weight onboard every flight, including ending in-flight travel retail sales within the EU on April 29, 2020,  and focusing on pre-order travel retail;
  • Driving operational efficiencies to improve the fuel efficiency of every flight;
  • New partnership with Neste to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in Finnair operations;
  • Offsetting carbon emissions of corporate customers’ flights;
  • Inviting customers to make sustainable choices and matching their offsetting and biofuel contributions with biofuel;
  • Reducing single-use plastics by 50 percent by the end of 2022;
  • Reducing food waste in catering operations by 50 percent by the end of 2022.

Finnair is also taking sustainability ”fully into its DNA”, proposing to the Finnair Annual General Meeting an amendment into the Articles of Association, to allow Finnair to engage in activities that increase the positive effects and reduce the negative effects of our business on the environment and society.

Aviation is a fast-paced industry subject to many changes, and everything impacts it. Maintaining a long-term perspective at all times, in all market situations is key. The plans we announced today prepare us for the next 100 years of Finnair’s future. Our number one goal is to reduce our own CO2 emissions by investing in new aircraft technology, by flying fuel-efficiently, by decreasing aircraft weight and by increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuels. We are also investing in innovation and research to create future solutions that support our long-term target of carbon neutrality, said Topi Manner, CEO of Finnair.

Aircraft renewal and SAF

As announced on Finnair’s capital market day in November 2019, Finnair is committed to investing EUR 3.5–4 billion into the renewal and growth of its fleet in 2020–2025. This significant change will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Finnair’s European traffic by 10-15  percent. It is also foreseeable that significant investments will be required beyond 2025.

On top of this, Finnair will invest EUR 60 million towards its new Sustainability strategy during the strategy period (2020–2025). This investment is in addition to the mandatory EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and other environment-related payments, that amounted to over EUR 35 million in 2029.

Finnair has also entered an ambitious partnership with Finland-based Neste, the world’s largest producer of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) refined from waste.

A Finnair aircraft refuelling at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL) in Finland.

The partnership will not only increase Finnair’s use of SAF, but it will also boost the production of SAF in Finland, an important step in making sustainable aviation fuels more widely used and affordable for Finnair and other airlines.

Weight reduction and offsets

Managing weight and fuel is key in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from flight operations and Finnair has developed a plan to reduce unnecessary weight from each aircraft, and to operate flights more fuel efficiently. The target is to reduce fuel consumption by 15 000 tonnes per year.

As a part of this, as of April 29, 2020, Finnair will remove travel retail sales from its short-haul European fleet and focus on pre-orders, reducing on average 50-100 kg from each flight, resulting in a total decrease of 70 tonnes in fuel consumption annually and 220 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Finnair will also offset the CO2 emissions of its corporate customers as of September 1, 2020. Finnair will also encourage its consumer customers to make sustainable choices by introducing new ticket types that allow customers to support biofuel purchases or offsetting initiatives later this year and will match customer’s contributions with biofuel purchases.

The company points out that an international approach is needed to reach its ambitious targets, and EU ETS and the global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction and Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) are “elemental” in halving Finnair’s net emissions by 2025.

Reduce single-use plastic and food waste

Finnair will also remove 230 tonnes of plastic from its flights, cutting the use of single-use plastics (SUP) in half by the end of 2022. In 2019, Finnair already removed 80 tonnes of plastic through increased recycling and smarter material choices. Next, Finnair will replace plastic cutlery from economy cabin dining with more sustainable cutlery knives, thus reducing a further 53 tonnes of plastic from its flights annually.

To counter CO2 generated by meat production and to cater to changing tastes, Finnair will also be introducing more vegetarian meal options for customers during 2020. Action will also be taken to reduce food waste in catering operations by 50 percent by the end of 2022.

On the ground, further measures will be taken to use renewable energy in the airline’s non-flight operations, such as in vehicles and in real estate energy consumption. These measures are calculated to achieve carbon neutrality for Finnair’s non-flight operations by 2022.

The ambitious targets we have announced today are achievable through the tangible steps we’ve described which we know will make a real contribution to CO2 reduction. By working together with our customers, partners and our employees we can embrace this challenge with confidence. We want to encourage innovation and engagement, from our customers to our staff to our supply chain to show Finnair can lead the way to make a real difference, said Anne Larilahti, Vice President of Sustainability at Finnair.

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