Upping efforts to ensure a cleaner tomorrow - Cat Aviation's story


Time to Act: Business Aviation is Increasing Efforts to Ensure a Cleaner Tomorrow


Climate change is a growing concern, and its negative impact is affecting the entire planet. Although there are numerous positive initiatives to improve the way we work, travel and manufacture, the United Nation’s 13th Sustainable Development Goal on Climate Action reinforces the message that scaling up and speeding up are necessary. As a result, countries and companies are doubling down on their efforts to become more sustainable – and the business aviation sector is no exception.


Business aviation has long been committed to reducing its environmental impact across the full value chain. From production to operations, the industry has been working towards reducing CO2 emissions and employing more sustainable alternatives. More than a decade ago, the industry set up the Business Aviation Commitment on Climate Change (BACCC), dedicated to achieving cleaner air transport through advances in four areas: technology, infrastructure and operational improvements, alternative fuels, and market-based measures. The BACCC targets:

  • Improving fuel efficiency by 2% per year from 2010 until 2020;
  • Achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards; and
  • Reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050, relative to 2005.
We all understand the importance of contributing to the environment, and the risks that exist if we don’t do anything.

Across the industry, business aircraft operators have been implementing policies to achieve these targets, and Cat Aviation is one of them. Helene Niedhart, CEO, and Patrick Müry, Flight Dispatch and Sustainability Officer, explain in detail some of the initiatives they and other operators have executed, and what their long-term plans are for climate action: “I don’t think it’s a question of doing something, it’s a question of how we’re going to do it,” Patrick emphasises. “We all understand the importance of contributing to the environment, and the risks that exist if we don’t do anything.”

There won’t be a need to worry about the viability of our business if we are all struggling to ensure the viability of our planet.

Reducing carbon emissions

Reducing carbon emissions is a top priority for the aviation industry and business aviation is no different. The BACCC details a number of mechanisms towards achieving this – technology, including sustainable aviation fuel, operations and infrastructure, and market-based measures (MBMs) are part of an overall “basket of measures” towards reducing emissions.

There are a number of global regulatory financial instruments in place, or MBMs, such as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which is a market-based emission reduction scheme set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).


Through CORSIA, air operators are required to compensate for their CO2 emissions by purchasing carbon offsets above an established industry baseline. These offset purchases help support other environmental initiatives working towards reducing CO2 emissions, that overall have lower emissions outputs, effectively balancing out the carbon footprint and making flights carbon neutral. Business aviation operators impacted by CORSIA can purchase CORSIA Eligible Units through organisations approved to supply offsets for CORSIA by ICAO. Operators can also voluntarily offset their emissions and use these carbon offset programmes as a proactive way of prioritising the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.


“It should be remembered that offsetting is not a licence to pollute, but is a mechanism that will contribute to the reduction of emissions in the short-term, while medium and longer-term permanent emissions reduction measures, such as improved technology, are established and put in place,” explains Bruce Parry, Senior Manager, Environment for the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA).

But it’s not just operators who are working towards becoming carbon neutral. Airports can achieve carbon neutral status under the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, initiated by Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe). Participation is a four-stage process that includes measuring the airport’s carbon emissions, reducing the ones the airport has direct control of, and engaging and investing with other stakeholders onsite to reduce emissions towards carbon neutrality and certification, which is the final stage. Nine of the top ten business aviation airports are already at varying stages of the scheme, with Farnborough in the UK being the first business aviation airport in the world to achieve carbon-neutral growth in June 2018.


On top of these initiatives, Helene and Patrick speak of another they’ve been looking into with their own company: “We’re connected with an organisation, a spin off from ETH Zurich, that has developed a system to capture carbon dioxide from the air,” Helene explains. “It can then be reused as a sustainable fuel.”


“It’s an interesting initiative,” Patrick adds. “It’s a renewable process; there’s no additional pollution.”

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

It’s no question that cleaner and more sustainable energy sources will be vital to the reduction of business aircraft emissions. And that’s why there’s so much hope for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which is already in limited use today. Research for making this fuel more commercially viable continues, with the goal to substitute a large proportion of conventional fuels by 2050. Business aviation has its own SAF Coalition, which includes EBAA, that is addressing the challenges of improving the infrastructure and supply of SAF to operators. The Coalition will publish the second edition of the Business Aviation Guide to SAF during the summer of 2020 as part of a wide-reaching education process on SAF.


“One of our most recent actions in Switzerland, was organising a high-level meeting with a number of parliamentarians, lawyers, businesspeople to promote sustainable fuel,” Helene from Cat Aviation recounts. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out because of COVID-19, but we’re already looking towards a new date. So that’s definitely a long-term goal: eradicating fossil fuel.”


Helene cautions though that it wouldn’t be feasible today to shift from fossil fuel to sustainable fuel overnight: “With the current challenges the industry faces in terms of the high cost and low access to these fuels, we – together with governments – need to outline a plan. We have to find a clever solution to both incentivize and implement the use of sustainable fuel.”

Shooting for the STARS

Beyond switching out fuel and offsetting, there are many other ways to contribute to climate action. To address those, the business aviation sector is currently setting up a sustainability label, endorsed by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). This three-tier programme called S.T.A.R.S. – Standards & Training for Aviation Responsibility and Sustainability seeks to help organisations play an even greater role in addressing both environmental and social issues, through the sharing of best practices and by providing tailored guidance.


On top of his responsibilities at Cat Aviation, Patrick is also part of the S.T.A.R.S. project team and is Chairman of the S.T.A.R.S. Social Responsibility Working Group. “Through S.T.A.R.S., we aim to show companies that operating more sustainably does not mean a ton of additional work,” Patrick explains.

Having access to clear guidance will definitely help smaller companies that may not have the time, resources and expertise to design a programme like this on their own.

But even without S.T.A.R.S. to guide their company yet, Patrick and Helene have already made internal changes within Cat Aviation. Patrick explains: “With Helene’s full backing, we’ve set up a team that includes members from almost every department in the company. We have regular meetings about how to optimise internal processes, such as implementing paperless cockpits and reducing paper consumption to improving recycling in the office by using reusable water bottles.”


“I strongly believe that sustainability is key to our business: this taskforce is one of the most important projects we have,” Helene says. “Our customers value this immensely. Business aviation could – and should – be a leader for promoting sustainability in everything we do.”

Looking towards the future

“It’s a mindset change,” Helene adds. “That doesn’t happen overnight. And if that means we have to work hard to instil that change, that makes it part of our mission. The only way we can move forward is by working together with other aviation companies, governments, and clients.”


“We don’t have all the solutions right now,” Patrick concludes. “But it’s important for companies to talk about this. Even more, it’s important to be working on it.”

The United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals came to life with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals were established as the guidelines for countries and companies to work towards making the world a more peaceful and prosperous place. Goals not only focus on humanitarian causes such as reducing inequality, ending poverty, and improving education, but also encouraging economic growth and stimulating climate action.


Do you have an example of how a company in the business aviation sector is aligned with these goals? Don’t hesitate to reach out!