As companies search for sustainable solutions, sometimes the advantages extend far beyond just the environmental benefits. Boeing and South African Airways' newest innovation provides a multi-layered solution – combining health, economic development and sustainability gains.
Boeing and South African Airways recently announced that they will soon be able to harvest the first crop of tobacco plants for biofuel use. In its search for a fuel that could be made from renewable sources, Boeing and South African Airways along with partners SkyNRG and Sunchem SA landed on Solaris, a nicotine-free tobacco plant with seeds that can be converted into bio-jet fuel. The new fuel will not only significantly reduce operating expenses and overall carbon footprint for the company (moving to biofuels could cut the airline industry's overall carbon footprint by 80 percent), but will also provide a two-fold boost to the community. When it came to producing the tobacco plants, the airlines turned to local South African farmers, many of whom were already growing tobacco for cigarettes. The initiative provides alternative employment for local tobacco farmers, effectively reinforcing the country's campaign to reduce smoking, which works to improve the overall health of the community. The new bio-jet fuel may be ready for test flights as early as next year.
Companies that are addressing sustainability issues have the opportunity to innovate even further, creating solutions that address community matters and solve both short- and long-term problems. By tackling health concerns, creating jobs and improving environmental efficiency in one business decision (not to mention reducing expenses); Boeing and South African Airways have created a true triple bottom line.