As business aviation works to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, one key to success is identifying the right person to lead the way.
Laura Clifford serves as sustainability leader for flight operations at Dell Technologies. She says her focus is on “using resources as efficiently as possible in a way that is not detrimental to the environment.”
“There aren’t very many flight departments that have a chief sustainability officer,” said Darryl Young, director of trip planning at AEG Fuels. One of the challenges about finding the right chief sustainability officer (CSO) may be awareness. Many employees “may not realize their company even has a flight department because they’re not based at headquarters,” said Young, who leads education outreach for NBAA’s Environmental Subcommittee.
“It’s not just a singular employee journey, it’s leading the change within an organization. If we don’t make a change now and don’t help drive green premiums down on SAF … business aviation won’t be here.”
Brock Jordan Netflix Chief Pilot and Sustainability Officer
Clifford, secretary of the subcommittee, came to her role at Dell in a rather roundabout way, starting as flight department business manager. Although some might expect a sustainability leader to have an environmental background, she did not.
“I’m passionate about sustainability,” she said. “I want to see a world where we have an environment that is working for our children and our children’s children. I believe a company needs [a sustainability leader] who can work cross-functionally and build relationships within the department and the corporate structure. I’m not a mechanic. I’m not a dispatcher, so I draw on the strengths of our entire team and corporate resources. If we want to focus our efforts on more efficient flight, I lean on the pilots because that’s their area of expertise.” Clifford works closely with Dell’s sustainability department to align her goals with overall corporate sustainability initiatives.
At Netflix in Burbank, CA, Brock Jordan serves as system chief pilot and sustainability officer. He also co-chairs the NBAA Environmental Subcommittee. Like Dell, Netflix has its own CSO, which helped it achieve net-zero status in 2021. “All of our King Air shuttle aircraft operate on SAF [sustainable aviation fuel],” Jordan said.
The best CSOs are passionate about the environment, he said. “But it’s not just a singular employee journey, it’s [about] leading the change within an organization. If we don’t make a change now and don’t help drive green premiums down on SAF … business aviation won’t be here.”
“We’ve looked at rolling in one non-flying person who has their hands on the day-to-day operations,” Jordan added.
“Sustainability is not just about paying for offsets, [it’s about] actually changing the narrative … and the emissions, from seed to tailpipe.”