Reporting on Southwest Airlines’ environmental efforts has been a work in progress. That work began with our first venture into public environmental reporting–our Southwest Airlines Environmental Stewardship Report published in 2007. We improved on that effort in 2008 with our Southwest Cares Report in which we began to showcase our sustainability efforts from an environmental standpoint, as well as our outreach to our People, the communities we serve, and our suppliers. Our 2009 Southwest Airlines One Report™ not only built on those past efforts, but took us to an entirely new level! We published a true sustainability report that included our Planet, People, and Performance, and we reported to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards, which included the first calculation of our Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
These days, you seldom pick up a newspaper, watch the news on television, or read articles on-line without seeing something about Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and their possible effect on our Planet. As the world embraces the concept that to achieve prosperity we must be sustainable, more and more focus is placed on the need for reduction of GHG emissions by industry. One of the first steps in reducing anything is to understand how you generate it and how much you generate, so we had to take an inventory. Gathering the information needed to understand and calculate Southwest Airlines’ GHG inventory required the help of many People in various departments of Southwest Airlines, including Finance, Fuel, GSE, Facilities, and Environmental Services. We thought you might be interested in a behind the scenes look at that process.
For the GHG inventory, we compiled usage data for our many energy sources from the departments mentioned above, including jet fuel, diesel, propane, gasoline, electricity, and natural gas. The most difficult challenge involved gathering a complete year of invoices for electricity and natural gas usage from our entire system and determining which facilities should be included in our inventory. With advice from our consultant, Burns & McDonnell, we decided to compile energy usage only for facilities where SWA controlled the purchase and use of the energy. The airports we serve should report the energy usage under their control in the airport terminals and concourses in their inventories, so we didn’t want to double count those areas.
We could not have accomplished the compiling of all this data without the help of our great Accounts Payable Team who tirelessly located all the invoices for us! About this time last year, I had mountains of invoices in my office which my Team sorted through over several months! From those invoices, we calculated the total electricity and natural gas purchased and burned. Using industry standard emissions factors, we calculated the GHGs emitted from the fuel burned and energy used. We also estimated our refrigerant losses from the air conditioning/heating systems in our network of facilities and calculated those GHG emissions. The quantities emitted of the six GHGs recognized as contributing to climate change were then converted to metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents using their global warming potential.
We found that 99 percent of SWA’s emissions on a carbon dioxide equivalent basis are actual emissions of carbon dioxide and not the other five GHGs. We also determined that 99 percent of our total corporate GHG emissions come from the combustion of jet fuel in our aircraft. This is comparable to other airlines in our industry and to other sectors of the transportation industry that use large volumes of fossil fuels. These determinations underscore the importance of all the ongoing fuel savings initiatives supported by our many operating departments, along with our 39-year commitment to efficiency. Additionally, environmental decisions also make good business sense, so these combined efforts save money for our Company and eliminate the GHG emissions that would have been generated by burning additional fuel. We are doing our part to help preserve our environment for future generations of SWA Customers and Families! To read more about our environmental efforts in the Southwest Airlines One Report™ go to www.southwest.com/cares.