Meet David, Virgin Australia Sustainability and Climate Change Manager
- Aug 02, 2011
Name: David White
Company: Virgin Australia Airlines
Role: Manager, Sustainability and Climate Change
Length of working: Nearly 6 years
Loves: Cycling, Aviation
What do you do at Virgin Australia?
I am responsible for overseeing the implementation of the sustainability framework that we have introduced to the airline. My team assists the various business units with new and existing initiatives that help to fulfil our sustainability vision and policy. I also handle issues relating to greenhouse gases, including emissions management and policy input including our work on sustainable aviation biofuels.
Can you tell me a bit more about Virgin Australia?
Virgin Australia Airlines began life in 2000 as Virgin Blue Airlines - a small operation out of Brisbane with two aircraft, one route and 200 team members. Since then the airline has evolved into the Virgin Australia group of airlines, which employs over 7,000 staff and flies millions of passengers each year. The group includes the Australian domestic airline Virgin Australia, long-haul international carrier V Australia and short-haul international airlines Pacific Blue and Polynesian Blue – the joint venture with the Samoan Government. The four airlines now operate a fleet of 89 Boeing 737-NGs, Boeing 777, Airbus A330s and Embraer E-Jet aircraft to 31 Australian and 17 international destinations.
What are the biggest challenges of working in sustainability within the Aviation sector?
The biggest challenge would be addressing our greenhouse gas emissions. While we are already an extremely fuel efficient airline, we are keen to further improve our performance in this area and reduce our emissions. We are particularly focused on supporting the development and commercialisation of aviation biofuels. We are very fortunate in our part of the world to have the weather, resources and land to support a vibrant and diverse biofuels industry.
Do you think Australia is an easy or hard place to do your job?
I am looking out the window right now and the great weather makes it hard to do my job.
Have you found it easy to work with other airlines?
Certainly, when we have a shared goal. For example we are a member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group with 23 other airlines and we have worked with the Australasian chapter to produce a roadmap to guide our efforts to make sustainable biofuels a reality over the next 10 years.
What project do you have in the pipe line that excites you?
Recently we announced a partnership with a number of organisations to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel that has benefits for the Australian farming community and the environment. The plan is to use fast pyrolysis technology to process Mallee, a eucalypt tree that is grown between wheat fields to help control soil salinity, offer protection from wind and erosion, and provide habitat for native birds and mammals.
What has been the biggest help in getting traction with in your company?
Easy, the terrific support of our CEO, board and executive team in developing a comprehensive sustainability framework for our airline.