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Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Airline goes carbon-neutral again - has Mango got a sustainability sell-by date?

How many times can you use sustainability as a PR-spin selling point without losing everybody credibility?

 "The key to combating climate change is to positively influence behaviours," said Bezuidenhout.(CEO Mango) in April 2010 "A greener, sustainable social and commercial future depends on more than simply planting trees as token carbon offsetting.(or planting vegetable gardens - see below) The challenge is much more fundamental.

"Aviation is responsible for approximately 2% of the total global carbon emission count" he said. "Yet, the vital role that aviation plays in economic development presents a dichotomy of principle. It is therefore key that aviation plays a substantial role addressing environmental imbalances. This is why Mango deems it critical for all role players in the industry to consider their contribution to change." "Presently Mango's per passenger carbon footprint is the lowest in the South African skies."

"Mango", he said in 2010, "will, from 1 April, implement a R2,50 per sector 'green fee' on all its flights. (The airline's published material suggests it flies an average of 2.2 million passengers per year, meaning its green fee collection for the two years ending April 2012 would have been approximately R11 million or 1,000,000 Euros.

So where's the money gone?

Bezuidenhout said that while this does not accurately monetize a per person carbon footprint of a typical domestic flight, "that it's a start, and the beginning of a medium to long term rollout that will see Mango flights become carbon neutral within the next 5 years."

Initially, funds raised through the "green fee" were to be channeled to sustainable development projects (Mango suggested its green fee has been used to support its vegetable garden initiative). Hein Kaiser can be seen explaining the initiative on youtube, ( )   where he helpfully explains that it's an on-going initiative and a "multi pronged approach to carbon offsetting and helping communities ".

It appears to have helped a few local communities in a small way but not from any significant carbon reduction perspective, but more helpful in PR spin for Mango and dangerously close to the tokenism derided by the Mango CEO in relation to tree planting and offsets.) that reduce our collective carbon footprint throughout the country as well as the propagation of public awareness. Initiatives will be regularly reported on  (They are not)

"We understand that, in a carbon constrained world, we need to invest now to ensure that we do not end up with stranded assets if and when the regulatory and legislative frameworks within which we operate change to reflect the renewed international urgency to tackle climate change. And equally important, to meet our responsibilities towards future generations" said Bezuidenhout.  "On the ground, Mango will also implement across the board recycling programmes and work with all its suppliers and partners to join the airline in greening operations. "By 2015, when one purchases a flight on Mango, the trip should be fully carbon neutral."

And in September 2012 the airline has another go as the following release was issued:

Low cost airline Mango intends to be the first African carrier to achieve a significant measure of carbon neutrality within a decade. (so not carbon neutral before 2022 or 2015 as claimed!) The airline today announced its commitment to sustainable growth and a pledge to reduce its emissions within a robust framework of initiatives that should see Mango achieve its goal. The airline plans to engage employees, suppliers, Guests and other role players within its value chain to encourage sustainability.

"Airlines burn fuel, and contribute approximately 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions," says Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout. "It is an immovable fact and as a sector that drives economic growth across markets, ergo sustainability within the industry and assuming a leadership position becomes key. Despite the fact that on-going economic pressures in aviation may be cause for losing focus, Mango has elected to formally commit itself to sustainability and recognising its responsibility toward managing and mitigating its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions."

The airline is preparing for an audit process whereby every aspect of flight operations will be measured for its carbon footprint. ( this clearly did not happen in 2010 when the carbon neutral claim was first made)"This means that we will commence measurement of our GHG emissions directly and indirectly related to our primary business activity, air transportation," said Bezuidenhout. "This will be determined, monitored and reported annually in line with the GHG Protocol / ISO14064 and reported in terms of Scope 1 - direct emissions including fuel burn as a consequence of flight operations, Scope 2 - indirect emissions such as electricity use, and Scope 3 - indirect emissions from third party operations such as waste management, and contractor activities."

Mango would initially seek to generate voluntary carbon credits. "Once we have a baseline our mitigation strategy will be aligned to Mango's current starting-block initiatives such as the construction of sustainable vegetable gardens in communities." (vegetable growing is not a recognised carbon offset activity and would yield little carbon reduction benefit) "Our aim is sustainable development that will, where possible, further align with national developmental goals and include added benefits of job creation and skills development among others," said Bezuidenhout, adding that ultimately solutions should be viable and add sustainable economic value.

The airline has already drafted a short term plan that will realise immediate reductions against Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to be implemented in parallel with the audit process, ultimately forming part of a larger sustainability management strategy.

The airline is partnering with the South African Mango Grower's Association and Subtropical Fruit Association to initiate a 5 year agricultural development and offset programme that will see micro-entrepreneur skill development, botany initiatives to improve crops such as topping greater yielding variants, mitigating fossil fuel energy dependency, educational initiatives through bursaries and 41 000 hectares of agricultural land earmarked for emission reduction activities.

Over the next 18 months Mango also plans to:

Rollout a fuel efficiency programme that will include aircraft weight reduction. Mango has already removed excess weight from its fleet (unused equipment such as ashtrays, ovens, less water carried etc). Winglets already fitted to its aircraft contribute to fuel savings of up to 4%. ( a standard feature on all new 737s) Further plans are afoot to include seat replacement across Mango's fleet and flight optimisation to lessen consumption and emissions.

Retrofit all Mango offices and seek out a partner to offer employees and value chain role players' residential retro-fitting and energy solutions such as LED lighting, energy and water efficient showerheads and geyser timers among others.

Embark on additional Guest education programmes through its owned media channels to educate and share information in terms of sustainability, touching on aspects as diverse as conservation, energy use reduction, and greener living options among others.

Make available staff educational programmes on energy efficiency opportunities both at home and at the workplace.

Convene a value -chain stakeholder forum within the Mango milieu, to initiate up and down stream implementation of sustainability and emission reduction initiatives. (meaning?)

Implement a Voluntary Emission Offset programme for Guests through all its booking channels. ( as tried over the last 5 years by many airlines with limited take up - less than 1% of passengers)

Said Hugo Kimber founder of The Carbon Consultancy:  "its very disappointing to find companies making apparently unsubstantiated claims for the purpose of reassuring customers. It suggests that the CEO of the company neither understands nor cares about the content of communications on the environment and believes that press release alone are a substitute for action, especially where the same announcement is made twice in 3 years."

Valere Tjolle

See amazing new 2012 sustainable tourism report 90% off offer HERE



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