In addition to bringing the European business aviation community together in person for the first time since 2019, EBACE 2022 is also marking the official rollout of EBAA’s new Standards and Training for Aviation Responsibility and Sustainability (STARS) program.
In development for more than four years, STARS is intended to help support, train, and certify business aviation companies across Europe—including aircraft operators, ground handlers, maintenance facilities, finance companies, and brokers—on sustainable business practices.
EBAA communications manager Róman Kok noted the program is one of the first outgrowths from the association's increased focus on spurring ideas from young professionals across business aviation, and specifically its participation in the One Young World (OYW) global forum of young leaders since 2018.
"One Young World does a lot of work with the United Nations, focused on public/private partnerships and how companies and corporate social responsibility play into the sustainability debate," he explained. "STARS incorporates tiers for environmental measures that could be taken at the company level, but also social issues such as diversity, inclusion, and work-life balance. It is sustainability from a holistic point of view."
STARS is modeled after the Airport Council International's (ACI) World Sustainability Strategy for Airports Worldwide, an accreditation program created as part of the aviation industry’s overarching goal for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The program also builds on that foundation with specific criteria in line with the International Business Aviation Council's (IBAC) suite of standards and practices for business aviation flight operations.
"We are bringing this program to the global level at IBAC, with an eye toward STARS rising to the same level as IS-BAO [International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations] or IS-BAH [International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling] standards for flight operations,” Kok added.
The 10 representatives that comprised EBAA’s first OYW delegation returned with the idea for what would become STARS, Kok said. "The next year's delegation went through the same process and came up with the same idea completely on their own. So we decided to put these two groups together and they've been working on this ever since."
Following a pilot program conducted over the past year with six European business aviation companies, EBAA will launch the program's first tier—a self-certification option—at an EBACE session this afternoon. "This will allow companies to develop an understanding about the program," Kok said. EBAA will share additional information about participation in the program, including details about the higher tiers, during the session.
The timing of the program coincides with an ever-increasing focus on the environmental impacts from Europe’s aviation industry, particularly as the European Commission emphasizes the need for more sustainable alternatives and a "green” recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic throughout the region’s transportation sector.
“The pandemic slowed progress toward sustainable innovation in terms of pressures from the regulatory side, but everybody knew it would be back once we started flying again,” Kok said. “It also made everyone [involved in STARS] work even harder. Remember, these are all volunteers working to make this happen. They're doing this after their regular jobs and we didn't want to overburden anyone."
While environmental concerns are at the forefront of most discussions about sustainability, Kok also emphasized STARS adopts an all-encompassing definition of the term. "The sustainability discussion has been rampant in Europe, especially in terms of aviation," he said. “But we see our mission as to drive sustainable growth for the industry, including from the career perspective.”
As a result, STARS “morphed into an initiative demonstrating how young people can make our industry better and help set the standard for sustainable business practices within the industry,” Kok added.
Another equally important goal of the program is to demonstrate business aviation’s commitment to innovation and environmental stewardship. "STARS was created by young and ambitious individuals," he said. "It wasn't just a 'Shark Tank' pitch; they're carrying this through from the ground up all the way through with EBAA support to recognized standards that can be applied globally.
“That's very powerful because it really shows how business aviation is not just a conservative industry reluctant to change,” Kok concluded. “We are young and we are driven, with ambitious talents to make our industry even better."