Working towards Net Zero
Mitigating climate change presents a huge and complex challenge, and Saxon Air acknowledges that as an aviation company we have a significant responsibility to reduce environmental impacts. This awareness is neither a recent nor a purely reactive development: achieving a more sustainable business model has been a strategic priority for us since 2019, and we have been working hard on achieving our targets for Net Zero by 2050 across different areas of the business.
Via carbon offsetting and other impact-reducing programmes, Saxon Air offers its charter and other clients a means of mitigating the impact of their use of non-scheduled aircraft. Although our focus is on these and other ‘can do’ ways of achieving sustainability benefits, the company is also committed to fostering cultural change – and exchange. Alongside adopting sustainable protocols in our approach to strategy and operations, Saxon Air also wants to help encourage a less tribal and less accusatory conversation about the environment with those outside the aviation industry; we are keen to foster positive collaborative impetus and the sharing of useful ideas
There is no getting around the fact that aviation is still heavily reliant on environmentally damaging fossil fuels. Although carbon offsetting is not a perfect solution, it does constitute significant positive action and, crucially, is possible for companies like ours to achieve quickly and at scale. Saxon Air is currently working with THG Eco – a company that helps facilitate collaborative sustainability solutions – to ensure a proportional and meaningful mitigation is made for every flight we operate. Our work on carbon mitigation also involves Gone West, a company whose projects combine a very considered approach to both tree planting and the creation of ethical jobs.
Alongside investing significant effort in carbon-mitigation programmes, we are making sure that our ability to meet a tough set of Net Zero targets is not compromised by the decisions we are making in developing the business over the longer term. This approach at strategic level has extended into changes such as working according to set departmental carbon budgets, and helping encourage awareness by charging an environmental levy on visiting aircraft at Norwich Airport that use our standalone flight support facilities. Our work towards achieving Net Zero is being supported by Carbon Charter, an initiative that independently assesses the sustainability work of SMEs in Norfolk and Suffolk (Saxon Air has achieved their Silver award).
Championing new technology
It is clearly unwise for aviation to rely on future technologies to create a ‘just in time’ solution to the environmental problems created by the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels. However, existing technological developments offer huge benefits, and at Saxon Air we are committed to doing everything we can to help embed or encourage them. Our work in this area includes taking a lease on Pipistrel’s Velis Electro, which is currently the world’s only certified electric aircraft; running one offers us a means to test the viability of operating Saxon Air’s headquarters building as the base for a future fleet of electric aircraft. It is a belief in the importance of understanding the ‘nuts and bolts’ requirements of cleaner aviation solutions that is also behind our recent commitment to working with a major UK energy supplier and NEBOAir – a group dedicated to the development of infrastructure to support the use of electric aircraft in Britain – on a networked plan for enabling UK airfields to cater to electric flights. We are also lobbying for the provision of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) at more UK airports, and were asked to contribute to the government’s 2021 White Paper for its Zero Emissions Flight Infrastructure programme.
In addition, Saxon Air is an investor in Sky Jeep, an electric aircraft prototype being developed by NUNCATS, a Norfolk-based social enterprise that converts light aircraft to provide, cheap, sustainable and off-grid transport solutions for remote communities across Africa. We are also helping bring the engineering principles behind this project to summer school students at the International Aviation Academy Norwich, and Saxon Air is a founder member of the Net Zero General Aviation Training Group, an organisation that encourages the early adoption in Norfolk of training in electric-propulsion technologies.
Saxon Air is keen to do what it can to encourage rather than close down conversation between the aviation industry and other interest groups, as well as to foster positive collaboration inside the industry on sustainability. We help do this in a variety of different ways. Saxon Air is a founder member of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce’s Business Climate Leaders, a group that helps SMEs embark on a focused and productive journey towards achieving their Net Zero targets. We also welcome opportunities to collaborate directly with anyone working on practical ways to realise sustainability goals in aviation; for example, the company recently teamed up with NEBOAir [see above, in ‘Championing new technology’] to promote the East of England’s leadership in early roll out of Net Zero aviation programmes.
In the last few years, Saxon Air has started hosting themed networking events that aim to help East Anglian businesses share ideas, challenges and concerns related to their efforts to reduce environmental impact – as well as to invite people to better understand what the aviation industry is doing on sustainability. Most recently, our ‘Wild Weekend’ event at the Business Aviation Centre offered a platform to Explorers Against Extinction, a Norwich-based charity that works to support frontline conservation projects in more than 30 countries.
Shifting company culture
We are working hard to ensure that our focus on sustainability carries through into our company culture, including the way we operate our headquarters building, the Business Aviation Centre (BAC) at Norwich Airport. Measures to date include shrinking the physical footprint of our offices (by 50 per cent) to help reduce energy use, investing in glass-only water drinking, and encouraging staff to make their travel to work car free via reducing the number of staff parking spaces and setting up a company Bike 2 Work scheme.
We are supporting the surrounding environment by investing in the building and regular care of two beehives in the grounds of the BAC. Saxon Air is also ambitious to extend the reach of its local sustainability programme. We are currently running a feasibility study on being energy supplier for the infrastructure that will charge all of the electric vehicles operating as part of future Park & Ride provision at Norwich Airport.
‘There are undoubtably challenges ahead, but the way to achieve the seemingly impossible is always to take the first step. As a company, we are committed to doing the right thing, and are working hard to turn our sustainability objectives into substantive practical changes in day-to-day operations.’Alex Durand, Chief Executive Officer, Saxon Air