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New Horizons

Environmental Protection, Profitability Should Go Hand-in-Hand

Pilot-environmentalist Bertrand Piccard believes aviation can prosper in sustainable ways.

After completing two round-the-world flights – one non-stop in a balloon and the other in the solar-powered Solar Impulse aircraft – one could understand if Bertrand Piccard wanted to rest on his laurels. But the inveterate entrepreneur is instead busy promoting a foundation that seeks to address environmental challenges while enabling economic growth.

“The Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label is the only credible evaluation today that guarantees the economic profitability of products and processes that protect the environment,” says Piccard. “So far, we have labeled over 600 solutions in the fields of water, mobility, energy, construction, industry and agriculture.” The foundation has a goal of certifying 1,000.

“If we don’t aim for more efficiency in producing and consuming, our industries will fail to create jobs and generate profits.”

Bertrand Piccard Founder, Solar Impulse Foundation

According to Piccard, there are many aviation solutions today that could reduce the industry’s environmental impact. These technologies include:

  • Bringing airplanes to the runway using electric tractors
  • Big data analysis to reduce fuel consumption
  • Predictive maintenance
  • More efficient flying, such as constant-descent approaches
  • Alternatives to single-use plastics for on-board catering

“There are also ambitious start-ups that have received our label, such as a hydrogen module ready to install on existing airframes, and electric propulsion systems for training aircraft,” Piccard added.

Piccard, a trained psychiatrist, comes from a family of explorers, so it is in his DNA to go beyond the obvious and push the boundaries of the possible. He believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a reckoning with our economic system.

“If we don’t aim for more efficiency in producing and consuming, our industries will fail to create jobs and generate profits,” he warns. “The world has an immense opportunity – one we may not have again – to shift to a more sustainable and just society. The labeled solutions can play a central role in this plan, and that is why we’ve gained major attention from business and political leaders in recent months.”

Bertrand Piccard is the founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation (, which has launched the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions to recognize products that are profitable and environmentally friendly. He is a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Environment and was a keynote speaker at 2018 NBAA-BACE.

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