Clay Lacy Aviation Offers Sustainability Case Study

 - September 23, 2021, 6:49 AM

Van Nuys, California-based Clay Lacy Aviation has put sustainability efforts at the forefront, an effort led by Scott Cutshall, senior v-p of development and sustainability.

Describing his company’s experience at AIN’s Building a Sustainable Flight Department Conference yesterday. Cutshall explained the fundamental reason behind Clay Lacy Aviation’s adoption of sustainability practices. “We’re looking at how we change what we do today without sacrificing what we do in the future.”

As a provider of charter, management, FBO, and maintenance services, Clay Lacy Aviation takes its commitment to sustainability seriously, and Cutshall cited three reasons the company has adopted these practices. The first is complying with future regulations that are expected to be imposed on business aviation; second is, he said, “we believe it’s going to be a competitive advantage for us”; and third, “we believe it’s the right thing to do for today and future generations.”

In advising attendees on how they might look at adopting sustainability practices, Cutshall suggested a strategy of measuring to establish existing baselines for the company—“where am I today and what is my carbon footprint?” The next step is to look for ways to reduce carbon emissions through lower energy consumption; for example, replacing incandescent or fluorescent lights with LED bulbs and installing motion sensors in offices and rooms where lights aren’t always needed.

After the “reduce” step, next comes replacement. This means figuring out new ways of completing the mission but with suitable alternatives. For example, turbine engines can run on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in a 50 percent blend with jet-A, and although it is more expensive, it cuts lifecycle emissions significantly—by around 40 percent at this ratio. An FBO might consider switching to electric-powered ground service vehicles and also using hangar roof solar power to charge the vehicles. Securing “green-rate” power to run a facility is another replacement option.

The leftover items that can’t be addressed by the above steps can be mitigated using carbon offsets, which means paying for vetted projects that have a proven benefit for reducing carbon emissions. Offsets can be used to mitigate the emissions from a business jet trip that can’t be fully offset using SAF, for example, or the emissions from non-green-rate power consumption.

Clay Lacy Aviation chose partners to help it in its sustainability journey, including World Fuel Services’ World Kinect Energy Services and 4Air. World Kinect gave Cutshall and his team a three-month workshop to help Clay Lacy Aviation develop its sustainability plan, including understanding why leadership chose to become more sustainable and the tactics for implementation. Then 4Air helped with auditing the new processes after implementation.

The next step for Clay Lacy Aviation is helping all 700 employees understand the program and participate in its continuing implementation and development. The sustainability team will be expanded by adding subject-matter experts to solicit ideas and input from each department. “We want to make people aware and contributing ideas,” said Cutshall. “The concept is to have an open dialogue throughout the company. The more people who are aware and participating, the more progress we’re going to make.”

It’s important for a company to set sustainability goals, and for many aviation operations, this might mean consulting with the parent company to assess and compare to its sustainability initiatives and goals. “How can you as a flight department align with those goals?” he asked.

“Begin with why and determine where the focus is going to be,” he continued. “Is is purely environmental, social, or economic. Establish baselines. Assemble your team and don’t do this alone. You should have a minimum of three people so you can bounce around ideas, share perspectives, and talk through your strategy and tactics.”

In Clay Lacy Aviation’s sustainability plan, the company is aiming to achieve eight big goals, which are the focus of the first two years of the program. Once those are accomplished, then the company will decide on its next priorities.

Although the benefits of sustainability are clear to Clay Lacy Aviation after two years of effort, a less obvious result came during the recent hiring of a new employee. When asked what attracted the new-hire to Clay Lacy Aviation, she explained that she was sold because it was the only aviation company she had seen that had a sustainability program on its website. "That blew me away," Cutshall concluded. "Don't underestimate the economic and social benefits of your program."