Microsoft, Netflix, and Salesforce are among the major international companies behind the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance launch, which is working to accelerate the race to carbon neutrality in air transportation. Specifically, the alliance is investing in sustainable aviation fuels, aiming to drive the production of the fuels themselves and innovation in the aviation industry. In addition, the group will advocate for policy that supports this work.
The Rocky Mountain Institute and Environmental Defense Fund are the drivers behind the alliance. In addition to the technology partners, the founding companies include Boston Consulting Group, Boeing, Deloitte, and JPMorgan Chase.
These big tech companies are playing an active role in the sustainable fuel push. Elizabeth Willmott, Microsoft’s carbon program manager, called the alliance’s work one of the “innovative new solutions and partnerships” necessary to achieve its goal of being carbon negative by 2030.
Why Big Tech Is Among the Key Investors in This Work
For one thing, these companies have offered their technical expertise to the important work of emissions reduction and the technologies necessary to develop both the fuels and the aircraft of the future.
In addition, the work is, like in Microsoft’s case, aligned with the companies’ own initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the impact of climate change. From a corporate relations perspective, partnering with and investing in these initiatives makes sense strategically.
Netflix, for example, recently revealed that it had analyzed its carbon footprint, and streaming an hour of its programming resulted in the use of 100 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is the same as driving a car a quarter of a mile. The average streaming hours in total for the service is 6 billion hours a month, equating to 1.5 billion miles of emission equivalents.
Amazon Partnership With ZeroAvia
For Amazon, there’s a more direct business connection. Since 2016, Amazon has leased a fleet of planes to help its complex and highly profitable transportation logistics network. In January 2021, the company purchased 11 Boeing 767-300 planes.
In December 2020, Amazon announced an investment in ZeroAvia, a sustainable aviation company based in the United States and the United Kingdom. ZeroAvia, founded in 2017, is building hydrogen-fueled powertrains that it expects to compete with traditional propeller-driven aircraft. ZeroAvia expects to build and fly 10- to 20-seat aircraft up to 500 miles. The aircraft could be used for commercial passenger flights, as well as package delivery and agriculture.
Amazon’s commitment totaled $21.4 million and was part of its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund, designed to support the development of decarbonizing and sustainable technologies and services. The investments are part of the company’s commitment, The Climate Pledge, which Amazon co-founded with Global Optimism to reach carbon net-zero by 2040.
“ZeroAvia’s zero-emission aviation powertrain has real potential to help decarbonize the aviation sector,” said Kara Hurst, vice president of worldwide sustainability at Amazon. “We hope this investment will further accelerate the pace of innovation to enable zero-emission air transport at scale.”
Since its inception, ZeroAvia has raised more than $53 million in private funding from investment funds and companies. Most recently, it raised $24.3 million from Breakthrough Energy Partners, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Shell Ventures, Summa Equity, and SYSTEMIQ.
ZeroAvia hopes to use the investments to create a commercially viable 19-seat aircraft by 2024. The company has used these investment strategies to help support other companies in their carbon-reduction goals. For example, as part of its recent funding round, ZeroAvia is partnering with British Airways to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050.
ZeroAvia is making a major impact on the drive for sustainability in the industry. This year, a Fast Company named ZeroAvia a finalist for the 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards in the transportation category.
The company also joined the Global Coalition for Sustainable Aviation in May 2021. The coalition is a part of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.
Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia’s chief executive officer, founded the company to disrupt the airline industry with zero-emission, low-noise alternatives. The company believes that it can reduce fuel and maintenance costs by 75 percent, leading to a 50 percent reduction in overall trip costs.
The company projects to build a progressively more complex line of powertrains that can support flights of up to 5,000 nautical miles for 200-seat aircraft by 2040.