The future of sustainability in aerospace

The aerospace industry generates £35bn of annual turnover and provides over 120,000 high-skilled jobs, with thousands more in the wider supply chain, making it a significant sector in the UK. Despite the contribution it makes to our economy, it has come at a price, with the focus on sustainability creating challenges industry wide.

Sustainability is a hot topic – and rightly so. Protecting our planet has become increasingly urgent in recent years, and every business in every sector has a responsibility to play its part. No matter what role your organisation plays, even the smallest of changes can help to make an impact on the bigger picture and it’s crucial that all industries, departments and teams are pulling in the same direction to build a more sustainable future.

To make the aerospace industry a greener place, collective we need to embark on a path towards greater sustainability to achieve the net-zero carbon emissions industry target by 2050. In October 2023, the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) worked to establish measures for reducing CO2 emissions. These measures include accelerating the development of innovative aircraft technologies, optimising flight operations, and increasing the production and use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). It will undoubtedly be a challenge throughout the sector, however, if businesses are clear and realistic about their goals, positive steps can be made towards a promising future.

The next steps to a greener future

A way to approach sustainability is to think about the wider manufacturing process as a whole, rather than focussing all attention on fuel burn and carbon emissions. The increased availability of environmentally friendly materials has provided aerospace manufacturers with a greater opportunity than ever before to introduce something new. For example, the development of composite materials has allowed manufacturers to create products with a lighter weight, whilst enhancing the durability of products due to their robustness, meaning they don't need to be frequently replaced.

Governments and international bodies are increasingly imposing stringent environmental regulations which help to keep leaders accountable. The EU’s Green Deal and the UK’s net-zero by 2050 target are prime examples. Those who have or are currently adopting sustainable practices will be in a better position to navigate the sector as it evolves. In addition, proactive engagement with new regulations will allow for input from industry professionals to shape how the industry adapts.  

The drive for sustainability is fuelling technological advancements in the aerospace sector. From the development of lightweight composite materials that reduce aircraft weight to SAFs, advancements such as these will help to reduce emissions and enable more efficient air travel. For example, American airline Jet Blue is the current leader in sustainability and is making positive steps, with an ambitious goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. The provider is using SAFs, investing in electric ground vehicles and raising awareness of overtourism in certain destinations.

It’s important for aviation businesses to prioritise transparency in all activity moving forwards, especially when launching new innovations. Continuous research and sticking to the facts will help to improve the overall integrity of the industry.

There is a long way to go, with sustainability at the forefront of all activity. With the industry willing to work together, the future looks promising.

In response to the demands of the industry, STG is launching a new sustainable emergency floor path marking product at AIX 2024 in Hamburg. Keep an eye on our social media pages to hear about the exciting product!

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