At Southwest Airlines®, we take pride in being the airline with Heart and that includes respecting our Planet. Our goal is to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which will require a strategic mix of advanced long-term planning and near-term action. We are working to make progress across our four strategic pillars to help us achieve our near and long-term sustainability goals and beyond.
Environmental Sustainability Goals
- Net zero carbon emissions by 2050
- Reduce carbon emissions intensity 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2035 as compared with 20191
- Replace 10% of our total jet fuel consumption with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030
Innovative technologies continue to create potential to improve the fuel efficiency of our aircraft. Projected reductions rely on our own ability to implement our fleet modernization plans and on manufacturers to deliver aircraft and other technologies.
SAF is the most critical lever in achieving our net zero goal. We assume, among other things, that the SAF market will scale in alignment with the U.S. government's SAF Grand Challenge.3 Additionally, we assume that SAF will reach an average carbon intensity (CI) of 15 gCO2e/MJ by 2050 given that the Clean Fuel Production Credit (CFPC) incentivizes lower carbon intensity SAF.
Includes continued investment in internal fuel saving measures such as route optimization, single engine taxiing, engine washing, weight savings, and other initiatives.
Fuel efficiency improvements are anticipated over time due to air traffic control and other initiatives implemented by the FAA.
While offsets aren't part of our depicted Path to Net Zero, they may play a role in contributing toward our 2050 net zero goal if any of the levers above are unable to provide currently anticipated reductions.
For additional details on our environmental sustainability goals and initiatives, including our efforts across our four pillar strategy, please see the latest One Report.
1Per revenue ton kilometer basis (including Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 Category 3 emissions (upstream emissions of jet fuel)); includes the use of SAF and excludes the use of carbon offsets.
2Detailed risk factors, including those specific to extreme weather events and climate change, are discussed under the heading "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022.
3See U.S. Department of Energy's SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap released September 2022.
4Verified offsets are defined as credits that have undergone independent third-party verification by an accredited verification body to have followed the methodologies and protocols of the applicable program in the development and execution of project activities.
Environmental Sustainability Plan
Environmental sustainability is an important part of our present and future, which is why we have set long-term and near-term goals, as well as a four-pillar strategy to Reduce, Replace, Offset, and Partner. Although challenges lie ahead, our efforts across our four-pillar strategy demonstrate our intent to overcome them.
Our plan includes reducing our carbon emissions intensity by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2035 as compared with 20191. We're focusing on a number of initiatives, both in the air and on the ground, to help get us there. Our plans to reduce include:
- Modernizing our fleet by adding the more fuel-efficient Boeing 737-7 and 737-8 aircraft and accelerating 737-700 retirements.5 The 737-7 and 737-8, powered by CFM International LEAP-1B engines, include design updates which result in less drag and further optimize performance, especially on longer-range flights. According to Boeing, the 737-7 and 737-8 have a 14% lower rate of fuel burn than the previous generation of 737 aircraft.6
- Operating optimized routes through our vertical and lateral flight planning algorithms and providing our Flight Crews with more accurate and up-to-date wind data linked to the aircraft, to take advantage of additional technological opportunities and leverage real-time wind profiles to reduce fuel burn.
- Carrying out fuel-saving programs and policies, including performing single engine taxiing when possible, reducing the use of the auxiliary power unit and instead using electric ground power, and reducing the overall weight of onboard interiors and assets.
- Improving our operations by investing in new technologies such as our Central Monitoring System, which allows us to monitor systems and equipment such as baggage handling systems, glycol (deicing) equipment, Passenger boarding bridges, as well as resources like ground power and preconditioned air, in real-time.
- Electrifying our ground services equipment that directly support the operation of the aircraft at the gate (baggage-tugs, belt-loaders (including power stows), and pushbacks).
- Purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) certified by an industry-recognized third party to target our Scope 2 electricity emissions. In 2022, we matched 100% of our electricity consumption at our Texas operations with RECs. And, we recently performed a facility condition assessment and energy analysis at our Corporate Campus and developed an energy roadmap with a goal to reduce our energy consumption in our Corporate Campus in Dallas by 50% by 2035 relative to a 2022 baseline as well as align to the Company's overall net zero by 2050 goal.
6The 737-8 is approximately 14% more fuel-efficient than the 737-800. The 737-7 is expected to produce comparable fuel efficiency improvement compared with the 737-700.
Our environmental sustainability plan includes replacing 10% of our total jet fuel consumption with SAF by 2030. We are collaborating with different producers and partners across the value chain to make progress.
What are sustainable aviation fuels?
SAF is fuel produced from non-fossil fuel sources that can result in lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional jet fuel on a lifecycle basis. SAF is a drop-in fuel when blended with conventional jet fuel and is crucial to decarbonizing aviation.Learn more about SAF
Our SAF partners
In 2022, the total amount of SAF produced in the world amounted to around 0.1% of global jet fuel demand.7 We support the U.S. government's SAF Grand Challenge ambition for three billion gallons of cost competitive SAF available to U.S. aircraft operators by 2030, which will require a significant increase in SAF production. In support of these goals, we have entered into offtake agreements with Velocys and Neste and Memoranda of Understanding with Marathon Petroleum Corporation and Phillips 66. We are also partnering with researchers like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), coalitions like the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, corporate Customers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to help develop this nascent market.
As announced in June 2022, we are also demonstrating our support of SAF by investing in SAFFiRE Renewables, LLC (SAFFiRE), a company formed by D3MAX, LLC, as part of a Department of Energy funded pilot project supporting the development and production of scalable SAF. SAFFiRE is expected to utilize technology developed by NREL to convert corn stover, a widely available agricultural residue in the U.S., into renewable ethanol that would then be upgraded into SAF.
According to NREL, this could produce significant quantities of cost-competitive SAF that could provide an 84% reduction in carbon intensity compared to conventional jet fuel on a lifecycle basis. For Southwest®, this was a first-of-its kind investment into what we believe could be potentially game-changing technology that could help us reach our environmental sustainability goals.7https://www.iata.org/contentassets/d13875e9ed784f75bac90f000760e998/saf-policy-2023.pdf
Verified carbon offsets continue to be a part of our multi-pronged environmental sustainability strategy.8 While we recognize that offsets have an important role to play for our Planet, we don't plan to use carbon offsets toward our voluntary near-term emissions intensity reduction targets and net zero goal. We recognize future requirements to use offsets for our international flying as part of CORSIA9 or from other regulatory measures may arise.10
What are carbon offsets?
Carbon offsets are tradeable rights generated from projects that reduce, capture, or avoid a certain amount of carbon emissions, and those rights can be purchased from those projects to offset an equal amount of carbon emissions from activities like flying.Learn more about carbon offsets and the projects we support
We are proud to partner with CHOOOSE™ to offer our Customers the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions by providing the first U.S.-based airline offset offer with loyalty points and matching contribution.118Verified offsets are defined as credits that have undergone independent third-party verification by an accredited verification body to have followed the methodologies and protocols of the applicable program in the development and execution of project activities.
9CORSIA, or the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation is a global market-based measure to reduce emissions from international flying through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In October 2022, the cap on international civil aviation emissions for participating operators was updated to 85% of 2019 levels from 2024-2035.
10Detailed risk factors, including those specific to climate change, are discussed under the heading "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022.
11Carbon emissions for flight activity are estimated using several factors such as: aircraft type, conventional jet fuel consumption, flight distance, and assumed load factor. Emission estimates are based on the fleet wide distance-weighted average performance of Southwest's flights from the Second Quarter of 2022. Southwest's emissions estimates do not quantify the potential climate change impact of non-carbon emissions resulting from a flight or non-flight factors, such as the production or transportation of conventional jet fuel to the aircraft prior to takeoff. Actual carbon emissions may vary from estimates. Taxes and fees (except for the processing fee) will not be matched by Southwest or earn points. Rapid Rewards® Members can earn 10 Rapid Rewards bonus points per dollar spent on offsets up to a maximum of 500 Rapid Rewards bonus points per month. Points will only be awarded to the Member's Rapid Rewards account number entered at the time of the carbon offset transaction. Southwest's matching contribution will be used to purchase additional offsets to support global projects, and such additional offsets will be retired for Southwest. Terms and conditions apply.
Partnerships play a crucial role in our sustainability efforts. We partner with different organizations and nonprofits whose work complements our efforts to achieve our goals and advance environmental sustainability.Learn more about our sustainability partners
Environmental Sustainability News & Videos
Earth with John Holden
Southwest Airlines goes from the skies to the big screen in an episode of EARTH with John Holden! EARTH with John Holden takes viewers around the world to learn how companies are implementing changes to protect the environment and promote a more eco-friendly world. In the episode, host John Holden travels to Texas and Colorado to learn how Southwest is investing in a SAF company to reduce the environmental impact of air travel by shifting the aviation market away from oil.
Repurpose with Purpose
In 2021, we welcomed the Tropical Agricultural and Higher Education Center (CATIE) to the Repurpose with Purpose family! Repurpose with Purpose is a global sustainability initiative that upcycles items such as leather seat covers and transforms them into new products. Through leather and cash grants from Southwest, this program will provide Costa Rican women the support to learn to not only craft beautiful products made from the upcycled leather, but also how to market the products in order to generate economic impact for their families and community.