Established just over a year ago, 4AIR is on a mission to deliver verifiable, transparent and easily implemented sustainability, as President Kennedy Ricci explains
Elsewhere in this edition, Gabriel Madrid, CEO of Jet Luxe, says the company takes sustainability extremely seriously. It was established in 2020 and, he says, “Our accreditation with 4AIR, the global standard for sustainability in business aviation, was one of our first major projects.”
Keen to discover more about 4AIR and how it has become the global standard, EVA spoke to Kennedy Ricci, the company’s president.
Jet Luxe, ironically, is an industry veteran compared to 4AIR, which launched on 28 January 2021. During its first year, 4AIR helped private jet owners, operators and passengers voluntarily offset or reduce more than 1 million tonnes of CO2 through verified carbon offsets and SAF; it facilitated more than 250,000 carbon-neutral flight hours; offset more than 80,000 emissions-neutral flight hours; and made possible more than 125 million carbon-neutral flight miles – an impressive start.
Ricci explains: “Through our ratings framework, we help all private aviation stakeholders achieve their sustainability goals and compliance with industry goals, in simple and fully verifiable commitments. For someone just starting out, we offer a comprehensive, full-service turnkey solution at the level of sustainability they are willing to commit to – just tell us how much you flew, and we cover the rest. If someone has already started offsetting or using sustainable fuels, we can audit the initiatives and help validate their commitment to their stakeholders in line with our rating system.
“Our ratings framework offers four levels – Bronze (Carbon Neutral), Silver (Emissions Neutral), Gold (Emissions Reduction) and Platinum (Climate Champion) – that help achieve carbon and emissions neutrality via carbon offsets, and actual emissions reduction through measures including SAF. Each level has specific, science-based goals, independently verified results and progressively greater impacts on sustainability.”
Starting at Level 2, the company’s emphasis on ‘emissions’ rather than simply ‘carbon’ is particularly significant, since it is easy to focus on carbon and lose sight of the bigger sustainability picture. Indeed, Ricci confirms that Level 2 recognises CO2 as only part of the problem.
“Based on the Global Warming Potential – GWP – emissions index applied to aviation, two-thirds of an aircraft’s environmental impact comes from non-CO2 warming pollutants, including water vapour and soot. Developing a simplified way to account for these emissions, we used the GWP to calculate the carbon equivalent impact of the non-CO2 emissions and use offsets in that amount to counteract the effect of all aviation emissions. Based on this emissions factor of 3.0, this means offsetting 300% of an operator’s base carbon footprint to account for the impact of all emissions. So, if one carbon credit offsets one tonne of CO2, then three carbon credits are needed to offset all emissions.”
Transparency and people
4AIR’s offer is based on sound science and enables stakeholders to satisfy their sustainability commitment without working through an evolving, sometimes complex system themselves, with the added benefit of knowing they are offsetting effectively. But how does a one-year-old company demonstrate the experience and gravitas to be considered the ‘global standard’? The answer is two-fold: transparency and the right people.
Ricci continues: “All carbon credits through 4AIR are quantified and verified through the most respected international bodies that issue and register them, including the American Carbon Registry, Climate Action Reserve, Verified Carbon Standard [VERRA] and The Gold Standard. Additionally, our end-of-year commitment audits and rating achievements are independently verified by third-party auditors.”
Kennedy Ricci and Chief Operating Officer Nancy Bsales are the driving force behind 4AIR. Ricci’s father leads a family of private aviation companies and is behind the 2022 Kenn Ricci Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award presented to Avfuel’s Craig Sincock, while his mother was a flight attendant and his grandfather was an organiser and manager of the Cleveland National Airshow; Kennedy Ricci himself is a pilot.
While still at the University of Notre Dame, he founded social media agency Flagship Social, focused on executive visibility. He also worked in the financial offices of Corporate Wings and Directional Aviation, learning the private aviation business and subsequently combining family history and his technological acumen to found 4AIR.
Bsales, meanwhile, has more than 15 years’ experience as a strategist in voluntary markets for sustainability, implementing new – now familiar – concepts including offsets and carbon accounting. Business aviation is among her specialities, where she has built corporate portfolios and launched consumer carbon emissions offset programmes. As a senior manager at carbon offset provider TerraPass and a consultant to organisations including the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, The Good Traveler and the Rocky Mountain Institute, Bsales also helped build one of the first offset providers in the US and developed innovative, first-of-their-kind programmes in corporate aviation, shipping and commercial travel.
4AIR has the people and science to make a real difference to business aviation emissions, but part of the sustainability puzzle is still missing. After the recent COP26 summit in the UK, for example, the general media criticised world leaders for using private aircraft to reach the summit. Insiders were incensed by the misreporting of an industry that is in reality trying very hard to reach sustainability goals, yet many feel unable to speak out. Could 4AIR provide the foundations upon which the business/VIP aviation industry might finally stand up as a paradigm of sustainability?
“Absolutely,” Ricci declares. “The private aviation industry has made significant, far-reaching commitments to reducing emissions. We see an enormous trend and interest among industry stakeholders wanting to implement effective sustainability programmes and our goal is to make these more accessible, transparent and easy to implement. Because our programme starts with carbon neutrality and not a commitment to it in the future, our partners are going beyond industry goals and taking action now to meet or surpass long-term goals. A 4AIR rating independently demonstrates that a partner is taking verifiable action to be an exemplary sustainability leader.
“We see the business aviation community willing to lead in a manner beyond commercial aviation,” Ricci says. “We believe that, through the industry’s pioneering, we can help lead all of aviation to a more effective and expeditious long-term decarbonisation, applying our learnings and accelerating technologies in a manner that will support the entire aviation industry.”