Qantas points spur carbon offset action

July 29, 2019
Qantas offset points
Oneof the Qantas carbon offset projects. Photo: Qantas

A move by Australian carrier Qantas to reward environmentally responsible passengers with frequent flyer points has seen a 15 percent rise in carbon offsets since early July.

A number of airline around the world offer voluntary carbon offset schemes but most passengers ignore them either through apathy or due to worries the money may not be channeled into genuinely effective projects.

Qantas set out to change that in July when it began incentivizing frequent flyers to fly carbon neutral by offering them 10 Qantas points for every dollar spent on the airline’s offset program.

This is the highest earn rate of any Qantas frequent flyer initiative and has seen the airline hand over a million frequent flyer points in response to the 15 percent increase in frequent flyers choosing to offset their carbon footprint.

READ: Industry heavyweights join forces on climate change in aviation’s “third era”.

The Qantas carbon offset scheme is not new: the Flying Kangaroo has been giving passengers the opportunity to offset emissions for more than a decade and lays claim to the world’s most successful airline program.

It uses the money from the offsets to buy carbon credits from 40 projects around the world, including projects in Australia’s North Kimberley and Queensland as well as in neighboring New Zealand.

However, only about one in 10 passengers choose the option so the airline partnered with the Harvard University Sustainability, Transparency and Accountability (STAR) Lab to better design and communicate its initiatives.

And it seems a spoonful of Qantas points sugar helps the environmental medicine go down.

“It’s great to see the power of points motivating customers to offset their flights and helping us towards our goal to halve our net emissions by 2050,’’ Qantas Loyalty chief executive Olivia Wirth said.

“Around 10 percent of our customers already choose to offset their flights, which is one almost every minute.

“We’re hoping the added incentive of Qantas Points will continue to drive numbers higher as awareness of the initiative grows. The initial increase we’ve seen is really encouraging.”

STAR Lab founding director Michael Hiscox said research showed that a majority of Australian consumers thought that businesses and individuals had a role to play in reducing the impact of climate change.

Hiscox said about 80 percent of those consumers reported they want to reduce their carbon footprint and preferred to buy products from environmentally conscious businesses.

He said leading companies were embracing sustainability, boosting market share and brand loyalty among an increasingly environmentally conscious population.

“The incentive of Qantas Points to fly carbon neutral helps to emphasize the company’s commitment to the program and its appreciation for customers who make the effort to offset,” he said.

The aviation industry is also introducing a global carbon offset scheme known as CORSIA that is to be implemented in phases from 2021, with some aspects beginning this year.

CORSIA is expected to provide more than $US40 billion for climate projects offsetting at least 2.5 billion tonnes of C02 over 15 years.