August 10, 2022
Interview: Sustainability with South America’s Largest Airline
Airlines Featured Interview

Interview: Sustainability with South America’s Largest Airline

Juan José Tohá, Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at the LATAM Airlines Group Photo: LATAM Airlines Groupffairs

DALLAS – As the largest airline on the continent, LATAM Airlines Group (LA) sees both valuable growth opportunities and integral environmental responsibilities in the South American commercial aviation sector.

Juan José Tohá, the Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at LA, described how the airline is developing an increasingly sustainable operation in an exclusive interview with Airways.

Tohá also elaborated on the crucial role of LA in supporting public health initiatives via the Solidarity Plane program in a continent where commercial aviation presents the safest, most efficient transportation option for vaccines, patients, and medical professionals.

Brent Foster (BF) How is LATAM innovating to incorporate sustainability in daily operations?

Juan José Tohá (JJT) We’re working on all the fronts that have important potential. We are working on four pillars of our strategy. The first, and probably the least glamorous but very important, is environmental management.

We are committed to obtaining the two basic certifications that the IATA has for environmental management that allow us to achieve the benchmarks of the industry in environmental management and have a common standard across all of our operations. And that obviously allows us to reduce and better manage the impacts that we produce on the environment.

At the end of this year, we will have stage two of IEnvA, which is the IATA standard, and we will be one of the nine carriers in the world to have already implemented those two stages of IEnvA. The second part is climate change, the biggest challenge that this industry (and probably humankind) is facing today.

For this industry, it’s very, very challenging.

We are making our best effort to move towards a sustainable industry. Being sustainable involves the environment, communities, and our clients. It is about finding the right balance of how we can deal with climate change and, at the same time, make this affordable for our clients while generating value for the societies where we operate.

LATAM aims to climate change while generating value for customers and society. Photo: LATAM

We have three main targets, all of which are carbon-neutral growth compared to the year 2019. If our emissions are above the level of 2019, we will commit to compensating for those emissions. This is very challenging if you think that South America is one of the regions with strong growth potential over the coming years and decades. 

The second commitment is to achieve a 50% reduction in our domestic emissions, more or less half of the emissions of LATAM, by the year 2030.  And this is something that is voluntary but not forced.  It is a goal that we are working on and that one where we have begun to make important progress. 

And the final commitment and probably the most challenging is being carbon neutral by the year 2050. This is something that other companies have done as well, it is something that we don’t know exactly how to do but we’re doing is doing our best effort today to reach there. 

When you think of this challenge, there is no silver bullet to get there. It’s not about replacing petrol with one kind of technology, it’s about being open to a lot of solutions.  Starting with efficiency in our fleet and all of our processes where there’s some space for improvement and reduction of emissions. 

The second is introducing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to our operations, this is something that is again very difficult to do just because think in this region, probably South America has the best conditions to produce SAF and we haven’t produced a liter of SAF until now. So committing to, let’s say, 5% of our fuel consumption by 2030 represents our commitment to SAF. It is something that is challenging because it depends on others that have to do investments and governments having the regulation. We are a long way from there.

I would say that the third way that we are exploring is through offsets in natural solutions. This region has probably the most iconic ecosystems in the world, starting with the Amazon. We have the biggest water reserves in the world, and we have 6 of the 10 countries with the most biodiversity in the world, so actually, we are on a continent that has enormous potential to combat climate change. We are working to preserve the ecosystems and the biodiversity in this region while obtaining credits to compensate for part of our emissions.

The challenge of being carbon-neutral comes from the combination of these different alternatives that we have.  And to do this we are working with our clients.


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Featured image: Juan José Tohá, Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at the LATAM Airlines Group Photo: LATAM Airlines Group

author
Aviation journalist and Daily Caller contributor who counts playing and teaching golf among his many hobbies, follow him on Twitter @realBrentFoster. Contact: brent@airwaysmag.com

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