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JetBlue Releases SASB-Aligned Sustainability Report, Invests in Hybrid-Electric Planes

American airline JetBlue has released the results of its annual environmental and sustainability report, which highlights the company’s achievements in 2016 and outlines how it plans to continue to integrate long-term environmental planning measures and corporate responsibility into its core business. Major developments include the announcement of one of the largest renewable jet fuel agreements in aviation history and carbon offsets totaling more than 1.7 billion pounds of CO2e emissions.

This year’s report is also joined by a white paper produced according to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standard for the airline industry covering material environmental, social and governance (ESG) information of interest to investors.

“Sustainability is about smart business and transparency,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s director of sustainability. “As one of the first companies and the first airline to report according to SASB’s intensive standards, our focus is on smart disruption. We are not relying on the status quo for sustainability reporting. SASB’s industry-specific standards help us present the most useful information to our investors, further tying sustainability to our bottom line.”

SASB maintains standards for the disclosure of material sustainability information to investors. Available in provisional form for 79 industries including airlines, the standards identify material sustainability factors that are likely to impact financial performance. SASB standards are designed to be cost-effective for companies and decision-useful for investors, providing both parties the ability to compare and benchmark performance.

The main report focuses on five key areas — environment, innovation, education, diversity and inclusion and caring. Highlights include:

  • Environment: The aviation industry made history with a worldwide global carbon offset agreement. In addition to joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, JetBlue also signed one of the biggest renewable jet fuel agreements in history. Over the next 10 years, the company will buy blended fuel from SG Preston, with the goal of reducing GHG by 50 percent per gallon.
  • Innovation: JetBlue invested more than $60 million in technologies to create much-needed efficiencies and reduce emissions in order to position itself for the future.
  • Education: In 2016, the airline provided support for crewmembers to complete their college degrees. JetBlue for Good, the airline’s platform for social impact and corporate responsibility, and the JetBlue Foundation also made STEM and aviation education more accessible for students from traditionally underserved communities.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: In 2016, the company began serving new communities and provided crewmembers with resource groups and mentorship opportunities.
  • Caring: In addition to provided support for communities in the wake of the Orlando shootings and Hurricane Matthew, JetBlue for Food built its 25th playground in an aear of need and donated more than $1.5 million to charities. In total, crewmembers volunteered 170,000 hours to a variety of causes.

Meanwhile, Zunum Aero, an aerospace startup based in Kirkland, WA, is looking to revolutionize the aviation industry with electricity-powered airplanes. With support from JetBlue Technology Ventures and Boeing, the company is developing a hybrid-electric plane for 2020 with battery storage in its wings.

It is expected that the electric hybrid propulsion technology employed by Zunum’s planes will help cut costs by 40 to 80 percent. Lower operating costs would ultimately be passed down to consumers and make it more affordable to fly out of smaller airports.

The idea isn’t entirely new — aircraft manufacturer Airbus introduced the all-electric E-Fan prototype in 2015 and expects to put the zero-emission-emitting aircraft on the market in 2017. While the technology is there, it will take some time before electric planes become a viable solution for commercial flights. In addition to scaling up, companies will need buy in from regulators in regards to safety.

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