LH Brian Kowalke

Lufthansa Cargo is taking another step on the road to sustainable airfreight operations.

Under its Sustainable Choice brand, the airline is about to launch two offerings so customers can choose offsetting or reducing the carbon footprint of their shipments.

At the booking stage, they will be offered COoffsetting and insetting options, the latter referring to the offsetting of emissions within the company’s value chain.

Customers can pay a premium towards the purchase of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) or make a contribution towards climate protection projects, such as reforestation initiatives.

The latter is meant primarily to offset the CO2 footprint of the logistics around the flight, such as the production and procurement of SAF. The contribution can cover the full CO2 footprint of the shipment, based on weight and distance, or some of it.

As discussions in the industry so far have focused less on CO2 footprint than on weight, Lufthansa is converting the CO2 measure into a rate per kg, which gives users a more established yardstick, said Brian Kowalke, senior product manager.

“The goal is to have CO2-neutral airfreight,” he added. “And then the question is, what CO2-neutral means, and this is in the mix of sustainable aviation fuel and climate protection projects.”

Sustainable Choice will be formally launched within weeks, following trials with several clients in different geographies that had gone well, he reported. It will be available on a global basis.

The option will be integrated into the booking process, but initially will not be available on third-party booking portals, like cargo.one or WebCargo. These will be added later – to begin with, Lufthansa’s own website will be the only electronic booking channel where Sustainable Choice will be available.

Another constraint in the early stages is the confinement of the offering to Lufthansa’s all-cargo flights; it is not available on passenger flights for the time being, that schedule remaining very much in flux.

Mr Kowalke said LH Cargo management wanted to reduce complexity as much as possible and added: “With the freighters, we have full control over the schedule.”

Like the extension of Sustainable Choice to third-party booking platforms, Lufthansa intends to include its bellyhold capacity in the mix later, he said.

Mr Kowalke said the initiative had found “strong resonance” in the industry, raising much interest and enquiries, which range from how the mechanism works to detailed queries on what companies can do.

The airline has blazed a trail in its partnership with DB Schenker. Since April, they have been running weekly CO2-neutral freighter flights between Shanghai and Frankfurt, following trials that began last November.

“We started this route 100% carbon-neutral independent of how many customers are actually willing to make use of the SAF option. If not enough customers decide to book and pay for the climate-friendly fuel, DB Schenker still pays for the more expensive SAF. Our product thus goes beyond any solution which is AWB-based and targets single shipments,” said a spokesperson for the logistics firm.

“DB Schenker welcomes Sustainable Choice, as we welcome every approach by carriers, forwarders or shippers to make air transport cleaner. As soon as it is available, we will evaluate the benefits it offers beyond our weekly CO2-neutral flights between Frankfurt and Shanghai, he added.

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