United Airlines announced today the launch of the United Airlines Ventures Sustainable Flight Fund, aimed at investing in and supporting startups focused on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) research, technology and production.
The fund is launching with over $100 million of investments from United, and inaugural partners including Air Canada, Boeing, GE Aerospace, JPMorgan Chase, and Honeywell. The company said that the fund is open to investment from corporates across industries to invest alongside it in SAF technology and production start-ups identified by United.
The new fund will prioritize investment in new technology, advanced fuel sources and proven producers, aimed at supporting the scaling of SAF supply.
Sustainable aviation fuel is seen as one of the key tools to help decarbonize the aviation industry, which currently accounts for 2-3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. SAF is generally produced from sustainable resources, like waste oils and agricultural residues. SAF producers estimate the fuels can result in lifecycle GHG emissions reductions of as much as 85% relative to conventional fuels.
United Airlines has committed to fully reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 without relying on carbon offsets. The new fund marks the latest in a series of SAF-focused initiatives for the company, including the launch last month of a joint venture aimed at developing and commercializing a new SAF technology using ethanol as feedstock with an agreement to purchase as much as 2.7 billion gallons of SAF from the venture over 20 years.
The establishment of the new fund follows the launch of United Airlines Ventures in 2021, United’s venture capital fund aimed at investing in sustainable aviation-focused companies, as well as in revolutionary aerospace developments and innovative technologies.
United also said that it will customers to supplement the company’s investment in the fund when purchasing a ticket, with options to contribute $1, $3.50 or $7.00. The company also announced that it has begun showing customers booking flights on its website or app an estimate of the flight’s carbon footprint, with indications of lower carbon options based on itinerary.
United CEO Scott Kirby, said:
“Solving climate change is doable but it requires hard work and real leadership. This fund is unique. It’s not about offsets or things that are just greenwashing. Instead, we’re creating a system that drives investment to build a new industry around sustainable aviation fuel, essentially from scratch. That’s the only way we can actually decarbonize aviation.”