#2 Sophia Mendelsohn, Head of Sustainability at JetBlue Airways

December 6, 2017

"We all like to go places. We all like to fly, and that doesn’t happen on unicorn tears and rainbows. It takes carbon, which we currently all use in the form of fossil fuel. When that fuel is put into the engine, it’s burned, and it leaves a trail of pollutants … [that] trap heat and moisture in the atmosphere—and that changes everything."

Aviation is responsible for 2% of global carbon emissions. Every time you fly home for the holidays, or buy clothes or food shipped by plane for that matter, you contribute to that chunk of pollution. The airline industry recognizes the necessity of replacing, reducing and removing emissions, and many airlines are proactively hiring professionals to address the sustainability issue. But what can you do as a consumer to affect change? What is your personal responsibility to offset the emissions that you produced? 

Today, Ross and Christophe are joined by Sophia Mendelsohn, Head of Sustainability at JetBlue to discuss the incentive to offset carbon emissions at the personal, company, and global levels. Sophia explains the role of branding and how consumers ‘lubricate the wheels of change’ by doing business with companies that reflect their values. They speak to how the industry is addressing climate change via the CORSIA deal and why limiting carbon exposure and liability makes good business sense from a financial perspective. Listen in to understand how you can offset your carbon emissions, encourage others to do the same, and avoid ‘used carbon salesmen’ who are double counting.

Key Takeaways

The aviation industry’s environmental impact

  • Fossil fuel burned in plane engine leaves trail of pollutants
  • Pollutants trap heat, moisture in atmosphere
  • Industry has responsibility to offset carbon emissions

Jet Blue’s three targets around carbon emissions

  1. Climate leadership (risk and opportunity)
  2. Sustainable operations
  3. Sustainable tourism

How individuals can offset greenhouse gas emissions generated by flying

  • Pay for carbon offset online
  • West to east coast cost = $10-$15

The Nori model

  • Cryptocurrency token worth one ton of CO2 removed

The three levels of responsibility when it comes to climate change

  1. Personal responsibility
  2. Company obligation
  3. Global accountability

How the airline industry is addressing climate change

  • International travel not regulated by Paris Agreement
  • CORSIA deal establishes all new flights offset from 2020

How climate change is avoiding the ‘tragedy of the commons’

  • Industry working with governments, environmentalists
  • Will cost more if they don’t

How biofuels might contribute to a solution

  • Carbon is building block of life, component of many plant oils
  • Fatty acid crops combine to make biofuel

The differences among scope 1, 2 and three emissions

  • Scope 1 is what you do directly (e.g.: Jet Blue generates 7.4M tons of CO2 emissions)
  • Scope 2 is what you see others do
  • Scope 3 is ‘what you hear about’ (i.e.: taxi pulling up to airport)

Why passengers may not be willing to pay to offset their travel emissions

  • Most want to do the right thing, but less than half understand connection
  • May have trust issue (can’t see results)

Sophia’s take on the future of JetBlue

  • New destinations in Canada, Europe
  • Innovation around electric planes, biofuels
  • Customers demanding more from companies (represent values)

Connect with Ross & Christophe


Carbon A List

Geagora’s Hackathon Submission


JetBlue Sustainability Programs

Paris Agreement