Leader and pioneer, Air France-KLM has been working for many years to reduce its environmental impact and commits to work together with all stakeholders and policymakers to achieve the climate objective to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 from all flights within and departing from the EU.
Published at the beginning of June this year, the latest report on sustainability activities by the Dutch airliner KLM highlights three words – reducing, replacing and compensating – when stating its intentions how to fly responsibly. The KLM sustainability report 2020 explains what the company did last year in order to keep on playing a pioneering role in the field of sustainability and how it is transitioning from flying more to flying better.
Restructuring for survival
As KLM CEO Pieter Elbers points out, “the COVID-19 pandemic has hit us hard and has led to the drastic restructuring of our company KLM, crucial for our survival. Yet, it also strengthened calls to make the aviation industry more sustainable. At the same time, aviation has clearly demonstrated its importance: air transport connects people and takes care of the transport of necessary goods, including vaccines.”
He adds that in 2019, the company launched its KLM Fly Responsibly initiative, which consists of numerous endeavors, of which upscaling the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel is the cornerstone. “Fly Responsibly will further support our goal to make our operation sustainable, as well as to innovate and cooperate with other external parties. These important pillars of our strategy have been – and still are – the foundations on which KLM’s operation is built and they will continue to play a vital role in the reconstruction of our company and sector after the COVID-19 crisis. An important outcome is the Green Recovery Statement, which KLM has drawn up together with the Dutch business community last year,” he says.
For lower noise footprint
The report stresses that compared to 2005, KLM has reduced its total CO2 emissions by an absolute 4% per passenger and 31% per kilometer as of 2019. It must be noted, of course, that KLM’s production in 2020 deviated significantly from previous years – due to the well-known pandemic circumstances – as a result of which, the year’s CO2 emission figures cannot be compared easily with other years and targets. For 2030, the goal is to reduce these levels by 15 and 50%, respectively. To this end, KLM continued to invest in more fuel-efficient aircraft with a lower noise footprint. Meanwhile, KLM’s CO2ZERO program enables passengers to compensate their CO2 emissions and in 2020, some 51,053 ton was offset this way. In 2020, Transavia partnered with KLM on CO2ZERO. KLM, which in 2011 was the world’s first airline to carry out a commercial flight partly fueled by Sustainable Aircraft Fuel (SAF), committed itself to use 14% SAF of the total volume used in the Netherlands by 2030. The customer proposition was broadened by expanding the corporate biofuel program to cargo customers and Air France decided to adopt KLM’s corporate biofuel program in 2021.
Replacing short distance flights by train
KLM’s ambition is to have zero emissions from ground operations by 2030. Therefore, KLM has invested in the electrification of ground equipment. As a result, some 62% of KLM’s ground equipment is now electric. KLM started testing a Taxibot; a hybrid towing vehicle which is licensed to tow the full aircraft to near the start of the runway, without the aircraft having to start its engines. The expected fuel reduction during taxiing is 50-85%. KLM is in favor of a European network of high-speed trains replacing short distance flights. In early 2020, KLM replaced one of its five daily flights to Brussels with a journey on the Thalys high-speed train. KLM is actively investigating with the Dutch rail company NS, Schiphol Airport and the Dutch Government how to replace more short flights by trains.
Debut of the Flying V scale model
KLM already worked with academic institutions, airline partners and the government on several initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions. Strategies for achieving this include fleet renewal, the use of SAFs, optimizing flight paths and procedures, the aim for emission-free airports and the adoption of the train for short distances. With the help of KLM, the Delft University of Technology made the maiden flight of its revolutionary Flying V model aircraft. KLM contributed to the action program Hybrid Electric Flight, which was submitted to the Dutch parliament. More waste and weight reduction initiatives have been worked on with external partners like the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.
KLM aims at a complete sustainable transformation
KLM expanded its notion of sustainability to not only encompass environmental goals, but also to include the role it has in serving society, enabling economic activity and being one of the largest private employers in the Netherlands. This deepening and broadening of KLM’s sustainability ambitions aligns well with KLM’s restructuring plan ‘Building Back Better’. Within this context, KLM developed a vision of how sustainability applies to the people-side of the business, by means of a ten-year roadmap that will improve staff engagement, diversity and inclusion, community engagement and human rights across the supply chain. Engagement for sustainability has increased in 2020. Sustainability was integrated into KLM’s Compass, which outlines the values, principles and behaviors of staff. A sustainability ecosystem of people involved in the subject was set up across the company, including Transavia, Cargo and E&M. An internal sustainability portal was built to inspire and educate staff throughout the company, the sustainability report states.
Leading the Sustainability World Index
In conclusion, CEO Pieter Elbers says they are “extremely proud and honored that KLM – together with our colleagues at Air France – is ranked again in the top of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index 2020 for the 16th time in a row. Dedication and hard work are needed to make the sustainable transformation of our companies complete.”
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