Southwest Airlines Announces New Environmental Sustainability Goals on its Path Toward Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

Nov. 17, 2023
The carrier has electrified 33 percent of eligible GSE and plans to work with airports to evaluate electric infrastructure to support additional expansion.

DALLAS – Southwest Airlines Co. announced an updated sustainability strategy, Nonstop to Net Zero, which outlines the carrier's path toward its goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and supporting a more sustainable future for air travel. As part of the carrier's more holistic approach toward sustainability, it has established carbon, circularity, and collaboration as strategic pillars to guide its ongoing strategy.  

Southwest's updated goals include: 

  • Electrifying 50 percent of eligible ground support equipment (GSE) system-wide by 2030. The carrier has electrified 33 percent of eligible GSE and plans to work with airports to evaluate electric infrastructure to support additional expansion. 
  • Saving 50 million incremental gallons of jet fuel by 2025, with a goal of saving 1.1 billion cumulative gallons by 2035. In 2022, the carrier saved approximately 33 million gallons of fuel through fuel efficiency initiatives. To reach new fuel savings goals, Southwest is implementing planned and new fuel savings initiatives, including enhancements to flight planning software, expected to save at least 145,000 metric tons of CO2e annually. 
  • Reducing single-use plastics from inflight service by 50 percent by weight by 2025 and eliminating single-use plastics from inflight service where feasible by 2030.  

"We're working toward our decarbonization goals by modernizing our fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft and securing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), while also furthering our sustainability initiatives in the near-term," Helen Giles, managing director environmental sustainability at Southwest Airlines, said. "Our People and Customers care about our Planet, and we continue to take action to address aviation's impact on the environment, while collaborating with our suppliers, local and national government, and other organizations." 

Southwest is also working to improve recycling through five key focus areas and collaborate with suppliers on sustainability, including utilizing EcoVadis to assess the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance of the Company's supply chain and ensure alignment with Southwest's Supplier Code of Conduct. 

Southwest's new goals complement the carrier's existing sustainability plans of: 

  • Achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 
  • Reducing carbon emissions intensity by 50 percent by 2035 in alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement, with an interim target of 25 percent reduction by 2030. 
  • Replacing 10 percent of total jet fuel consumption with SAF by 2030. 
  • Reducing energy utilization index at the Company's Dallas corporate headquarters by 50 percent by 2035. 

Charting Progress

"As we look ahead to the next phase of our sustainability journey as part of our Nonstop to Net Zero strategy, we're also proud of the progress we've made over the past year," Giles said.  

  • In October 2023, Southwest signed a 20-year agreement to purchase up to 680 million gallons of neat SAF from USA BioEnergy, LLC, which, once blended with conventional jet fuel, could produce the equivalent of 2.59 billion gallons of net zero fuel7 over the term. 
  • In August 2023, Southwest launched a tool allowing eligible corporate Customers the option to purchase Scope 3 SAF claims and/or carbon offsets directly within Southwest Business Assist.
  • In August 2023, Southwest partnered with General Electric (GE) Research to support a Department of Energy-funded grant for a GE system that is planned to combine detailed engine operational data, a hybrid physics and machine learning model, on-airplane data, and real-time satellite observations to predict aviation-induced cirrus clouds that last more than five hours. 
  • In July 2023, The Boeing Company announced a collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Southwest, and other U.S. airlines to advise the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project and development of the X-66 research aircraft. 
  • In the past year, Southwest was recognized by D CEO Magazine 2023 Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards in the Sustainability Leadership category and the 2023 Sustainability, Environmental Achievement, and Leadership (SEAL) Business Awards in the Environmental Initiative category.