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Aviation and sustainability: the terms you need to know

Aviation - 28th April 2021
Airplane in flight

The United Nations describes climate change as the “defining issue of our time.” That’s why at 8020, we’re here to help aviation professionals navigate what being a sustainable business really means and communicate that journey.  In this video, our account manager Heather Mullon explores the top terms for aviation professionals to be aware of: Sustainability, Net-zero emissions, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), Carbon offsetting and Greenwashing. 


Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It encourages businesses to frame decisions in terms of environmental, social, and human impact for the long-term, rather than on short-term gains such as next quarter’s earnings report. 


Net-zero emissions

To avoid the worst climate impacts, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to drop by half by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050. Netzero emissions refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere.  

In aviation this will be done through a variety of ways, including investing in newer, more efficient planes and different types of propulsion, the use of sustainable aviation fuels and the better use of airspace and coordinated flight paths. Offsetting is another tactic already widely used.  


Sustainable Aviation Fuel – SAF 

An alternative, sustainably produced jet fuel often mixed 50/50 with traditional jet fuel. The SAF component of the blend results in a reduction of around 80% in carbon dioxide emissions across its life cycle relative to fossil fuels. 

Rather than being refined from petroleum, SAF is made from sustainable feedstocks such as cooking oil, plant oils, municipal waste, waste gases, and agricultural  residues – to name a few. 


Carbon offsetting 

The process of compensating for CO2 emissions arising from human activity by paying towards schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of CO2 in the atmosphere. Put simply, offsetting means buying carbon credits equivalent to your carbon impact.

Carbon offset schemes allow individuals and companies to invest in environmental projects to balance out their own carbon footprints. They vary widely and might involve rolling out clean energy technologies or soaking up CO2 directly from the air through the planting of trees.  



The Cambridge Dictionary says greenwashing is designed to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. It involves making unsubstantiated or misleading claims about a product, service, technology or company practice in order to forge an environmentally responsible imageoften to hide harmful practices. 

Not all greenwashing is intentional, but in nearly all cases, it affects a businesses’ reputation, and leads to negative media and social media coverage and, ultimately, a drop in sales. And, the fear of being accused of greenwashing puts companies off promoting sustainable practices. 

Sustainability and how you communicate your company’s proposition is fundamentally important to gaining traction with all audiences.


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