illustration of jets

From fast food to jet fuel how cooking oil is helping power Heathrow’s green revolution

As an economically valuable but hard-to-abate sector, innovation is crucial to achieving decarbonisation in the aviation industry.

Heathrow is committed to achieving net zero by 2050, which requires significant progress in the next few years. Its plan is centred on two ambitious 2030 goals to cut absolute carbon emissions:

  • At least a 45% cut in carbon from surface access, supply chain, vehicles, buildings and infrastructure, (or carbon ‘on the ground’).
  • Up to a 15% cut in carbon from flying (or carbon ‘in the air’).

On the ground

Heathrow’s approach to reducing its ‘on the ground’ emissions centre on four factors:

  • Changes to surface access for passengers and staff, cutting carbon by 49% by 2030 through new public transport links and the switch to electric vehicles.
  • Leveraging its procurement role to deliver a net zero supply chain, cutting carbon from suppliers by 35%.
  • Shifting airport vehicles to zero emissions or powered by biofuels, cutting carbon by 87%.
  • Energy efficiency and technology cutting carbon by 39% by 2030 from airport buildings and infrastructure, including through starting to switch off gas.

What is the role of Sustainability Aviation Fuel?

To help reach its goal of net zero by 2050, Heathrow has provided an innovative framework to increase the number of flights powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). SAF can be made from a variety of methods and sources, including waste, animal fat and cooking oil, and reduces carbon emissions by up to an average of 70%. SAF blend can work in existing aircraft, and with advancements in aircraft technology like electric or hydrogen-powered flight still some way from commercial implementation, SAF is the key to unlocking material reductions in carbon today.

As a global SAF leader, Heathrow is committed to progressively increasing the SAF used each year, with the airport targeting 11% SAF usage by 2030.

How does the incentive work?

The scheme encourages airlines to switch to SAF by halving the price gap between kerosene and its greener alternative, making SAF a commercial reality for airlines. The scheme was the first of its kind when introduced in 2022. In 2024, the scheme aims to remove up to 341,755 tonnes of carbon equivalent emissions from flights if 70% GHG emissions reduction is achieved, equivalent to over 568,000 passenger round trips from Heathrow to New York. Participants in the scheme include IAH Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, and Air France.

Related courses and resources

Surveys show that a large majority of global consumers expect companies to be run in a socially responsible manner, with 81% saying they are more likely to buy from brands with similar values to their own. Full IoD members can request a template CSR policy for your company from the Information & Advisory Service.

Better directors for a better world

The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network and build successful, responsible businesses.

Making better choices for a better world

Browse valuable environment and sustainability resources from the IoD.
Internet Explorer
Your web browser is out of date and is not supported by the IoD website. It is important to update your browser for increased security and a better web experience.