December 1, 2023

Equinox initiative aims to balance ‘greenwashing’

Music and entertainment specialist Equinox Travel and its sister company Equinox Charter have launched an Equinox Enhanced Sustainability Initiative (EESI), designed to analyse and compare the sustainability efforts of aircraft operators for their clients.

The London-based companies, set up in 2021 by former The Appointment Group (TAG) and ET Travel Ltd directors Ian Patterson and Glen Duckworth, will provide thorough sustainability assessment of suitable airlines and charter operators.

Besides carbon offsetting and the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), the assessments will cover day-to-day flight operations procedures, as well as the operators’ general sustainability culture.

The companies say they are seeking to balance some of the ‘greenwashing’ and growing misinformation in the industry, including false claims, self-applied certifications, and an apparent over-reliance on carbon offsetting initiatives.

Patterson, Equinox CEO, said: “We’re not naïve to the impact of aviation on the environment. However, as providers of both commercial and private travel, and an intermediary between travellers and aircraft operators, we feel Equinox is well-positioned to encourage responsible choices when it comes to flying and to drive confidence and assurance by those choices.”

The initiative is managed by Equinox’s Sustainable Flight Operations Consultant, Douglas Corbett, a former private jet and airline instructor pilot.

“The day-to-day impact of flying doesn’t just need mitigating, but also minimising. This is why Equinox and I have set out to examine and assess the primary source of flight emissions: the flight operation itself,” said Corbett.

“Carbon offsetting and SAFs can go a long way, but we also want to be able to assure clients that their preferred operators are doing whatever they can to tackle actual flight emissions at the point of origin.

“We believe sustainable aviation requires a ‘belt and braces’ approach. Every detail, from fuel burn to raw material use, has an impact on emissions. When auditing operators, we rigorously examine the technical and non-technical aspects of flight operations ‘in the field’, and help our clients communicate the tangible action taken by the operators they choose to work with.”

Elliot Bottomley, Managing Director of Equinox Charter, added: “Following a tough couple of years, we’re now seeing a huge appetite for international travel. For many of our clients, summer is shaping up to be extremely busy.

“Through our Enhanced Sustainability Initiative, we will use in-depth operator insight to empower clients to consider ESG credentials in their decision-making, alongside usual factors such as safety, price and reputation. The three-tiered approach ensures clients can tailor the depth of assessment according to their requirements.”

The company’s three-tiered initiative involves varying levels of operator analysis:

  • Lower-tier assessments look at a combination of existing carbon mitigation culture, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) efforts, as well as published technical data and other available third-party information
  • Middle-tier analysis goes a step further and involves direct contact with the operator, gathering specific information against a 100-point matrix, recording any technical and non-technical flight operations initiatives
  • Top-tier assessment involves a much deeper flight operations review with expert analysis and direct flight observations, as well as an in-depth evaluation against criteria such as culture, ground operations and crew training.

The initiative forms part of Equinox’ wider sustainability commitment, alongside carbon offsetting and empty leg charters.

Patterson added: “We’re not proclaiming we have the answer to sustainable travel. There are many contributing factors and developments to look forward to, including SAFs, more fuel-efficient aircraft and the emergence of eVTOLs.

“What we do want to offer, however, is further choice for our clients – enabling them to make decisions based on environmental credentials, and not simply based on price or service.”