United Airlines announced today the launch of Eco-Skies Alliance, a new program aimed at enabling corporate customers the opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of travel beyond purchasing offsets, by paying the additional cost of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Air transport has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as a significant contributor to GHG emissions. According to European Commission estimates, aviation accounts for 2% of global GHG emissions. Aviation is also a key focus area for companies aiming to tackle their own impacts, with business travel often constituting a significant source of their Scope 3 emissions.

SAF is seen by market participants as one of the key tools for the industry to address its emissions impact, as it generates 80% less lifecycle carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel. SAF is generally produced from sustainable resources, like waste oils and agricultural residues, or even from carbon captured from the air, rather than from fossil fuels.

According to United, with the launch of the new program, more than a dozen leading global corporations will collectively contribute towards the purchase of approximately 3.4 million gallons of SAF this year, equivalent to eliminating approximately 31,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or enough to fly passengers over 220 million miles. Inaugural corporate participants in the program include Autodesk, Boston Consulting Group, CEVA Logistics, Deloitte, DHL Global Forwarding, DSV Panalpina, HP Inc., Nike, Palantir, Siemens and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

Rich Lesser, CEO, Boston Consulting Group, said:

“As part of BCG’s bold ambition to achieve net-zero climate impact by 2030, we are proud to join the Eco-Skies Alliance and advance the path towards lower carbon travel. Sustainable aviation fuel is a part of our journey to net zero and initiatives like the Eco-Skies Alliance provide a meaningful way to decarbonize air travel.”

In addition to the Eco-Skies Alliance program, United announced that it will give customers the ability to contribute funds for additional SAF purchase or for use on initiatives that the airline believes will help decarbonize aviation.

The launch of the new program follows United recent announcement in December 2020 of a significant expansion to its sustainability goals, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2050, compared to the prior goal of a 50% reduction. The company aims to achieve this goal using direct emission reduction measures rather than relying on indirect measures such as carbon offsetting, and through continued investment in the development and use of SAF.

United CEO Scott Kirby said:

“While we’ve partnered with companies for years to help them offset their flight emissions, we applaud those participating in the Eco-Skies Alliance for recognizing the need to go beyond carbon offsets and support SAF-powered flying, which will lead to more affordable supply and ultimately, lower emissions. This is just the beginning. Our goal is to add more companies to the Eco-Skies Alliance program, purchase more SAF and work across industries to find other innovative paths towards decarbonization.”