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Virgin Atlantic's sustainable flight faces greenwashing allegations

Published Dec 01, 2023 00:12
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The recent launch of Virgin Atlantic's transatlantic flight powered by sustainable jet fuel has not only marked a step towards eco-conscious travel but also ignited a debate on the authenticity of green claims in the aviation industry. Environmental groups Possible and Leigh Day have filed formal complaints with the OECD, accusing Virgin Atlantic and British Airways of misleading consumers with overestimated environmental progress.

These complaints come in the wake of Virgin Atlantic's "guilt-free flying" campaign, supported by the UK government, which champions the use of sustainable jet fuel derived from cooking oil. However, critics, including Possible's Alethea Warrington, argue that the airlines' portrayal of clean flying technologies is either unproven or non-existent.

The Royal Society's studies indicate that achieving net-zero aviation could necessitate unsustainable agricultural or renewable energy commitments. Moreover, biofuels, like the one used by Virgin Atlantic, might contribute to higher emissions due to deforestation and have similar tailpipe emissions to conventional jet fuel.

In response to the allegations, British Airways has detailed its Net Zero 2050 ambition, which involves improved operational practices, investment in new aircraft, partnerships for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and the development of hydrogen-powered aircraft and carbon-capture technologies. Likewise, Virgin Atlantic has defended its environmental strategy, reiterating its Net Zero 2050 goal with interim targets such as incorporating 10% SAF by 2030. The airline also emphasizes the efficiency of its relatively young fleet operating on transatlantic routes.

The environmental groups' challenge to the airlines focuses on the lack of transparent communication regarding actual emission levels and the potential ecological harm from biofuel production. They highlight that British Airways has experienced a rise in aviation fuel emissions, which they say contradicts the company's net-zero trajectory claim. Virgin Atlantic is particularly criticized for not fully disclosing its progress towards emission reduction targets.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

Virgin Atlantic's sustainable flight faces greenwashing allegations
 

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