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How Felipe Andrés Gómez Vivas is taking Avianca towards net zero via Environmental Management System and more
"Flying is about dreaming. It’s about bringing down obstacles and barriers. Avianca has been around for over 100 years and has faced the fiercest challenges one can imagine. For me, the main inspiration is to be part of a team that will make sure Avianca will prevail while facing the most difficult challenge of all: Sustainability." - Felipe Andrés Gómez Vivas, Director of Sustainability and Institutional Relations at Avianca
Avianca Airlines was one of the hardest hit airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. After changing its cost structure in 2019, the company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid- 2020 and underwent a financial restructuring process.
While others might have balked at taking on the challenge of going green so soon after suffering acute financial distress, Avianca actually reiterated its commitment to the environment through planned incremental improvements. It is entirely to the airline’s credit that sustainability features as a key component of their strategy going forward.
Avianca’s 2021 Sustainability Report outlines two of its key sustainability initiatives after emerging from bankruptcy. The first is a certified Environmental Management System that helps prevent environmental pollution through cleaner production practices and compliance with legislation. The airline reported no aberrations in 2021. The second is a fuel conservation programme called "Avianca Fuel" that designs, implements and monitors fuel conservation initiatives. The programme has 24 fuel conservation initiatives, of which 9 are executed by pilots, 11 are managed by flight dispatch and 4 are executed by maintenance.
Meet the Changemaker
Felipe Andrés Gómez Vivas is Director of Sustainability and Institutional Relations at Avianca. A political scientist with over 19 years of experience, he has worked as a consultant and as an executive in the food, building materials, government and airline sectors. For the last two years he has been leading Avianca’s government relations and sustainability initiatives. Despite leading the function at Avianca, Felipe insists that sustainability is not an office, an area, or a title.
“It’s a capability that should be visible and accountable in every single project and role inside the airline. Every executive is responsible for making sure ESG practices are present in his or her KPIs and their analysis processes”, he says.
Felipe is proud of what Avianca has achieved despite stiff challenges to its business. For example, as part of its commitment to caring for the environment, under its sustainability strategy, Avianca offset more than 70% of the CO2 emissions generated in its domestic operation in Colombia between 2017 and 2021. Moreover, a new cabin transformation is set to ensure that more than 90 A320 aircraft will have 20% more capacity per aircraft in order to reduce the carbon footprint per passenger by 13%. In addition, Avianca participated for the fifth consecutive year in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the highest-ranked airline in Latin America for its actions against "climate change".
Finally, the airline is one of the first 100 companies participating in the Carbon Neutrality Program established by the Colombian Ministry of the Environment, contributing to the fulfilment of the goals that the country has set for 2030 and 2050.