Delta Air Lines is a publicly listed company headquartered in the United States of America. In 2021, its revenue was USD 29.9 billion. It provides scheduled and global air transportation for passengers, freight and mail. Established in 1929, Delta is one of the world's oldest airlines still in operation.
Delta is working at local and national level to design climate policies to reduce emissions. With local public authorities, Delta developed a voluntary opt-in provision for SAF under the Washington State Low Carbon Fuel Standard legislation (HB 1091). At a national level, the company is supporting SAF provisions in the Build Back Better package. It is also supporting the Sustainable Skies Act, which aims to cut aviation’s carbon emissions in half. Finally, it is promoting the Aviation Emissions Reduction Opportunities Act. Delta should continue to advocate strong climate policies nationwide.
Delta has pledged to invest USD 1 billion by 2030 to help achieve air net-zero emissions. However, the company does not disclose the proportion of its research and development (R&D) expenditure invested in low-carbon vehicles and energies. Delta is working with Airbus to advance industry knowledge on the opportunities and challenges of hydrogen fuel, but it does not report the financial commitment to this work. The company should ensure that a significant proportion of its R&D investment is in low-carbon vehicles and fuel development. The company should also stop spending this budget on offsets and emphasise direct action to reduce emissions.
Delta stipulates that employees will receive environmental training. Ensuring all employees are brought into the company’s transition is important for its success. Delta needs to ensure this specifically includes climate training. Delta can also improve by disclosing the number of employees receiving this training and the proportion of its training budget spent on climate-related topics.
Delta has air service agreements with domestic regional air carriers Republic Airways and Sky West Airlines which represent 8% of the company’s GHG emissions. The company reports the emissions from jet fuel used by these regional partner airlines under its scope 3 emissions. However, Delta reports neither subcontractors’ strategies nor how it is engaging subcontractors to reduce emissions. Although proportionally smaller, addressing these emissions is important to reduce overall emissions intensity. The company needs to strengthen its efforts to work with subcontractors to reduce their emissions along with its own emissions.
Delta has programmes to influence customer behaviour and reduce customers’ GHG emissions. One of these involves working with over 35 corporate customers and travel agency partners to support the development of the SAF market. The programme enables corporate customers to purchase SAF to cover a percentage of their emissions from employee business travel. Delta has specifically targeted clients with their own strong scope 3 emissions targets as this allows both companies to benefit.
Delta remains on the boards of Airlines for America and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which have been reported to have opposed climate policies. The company spends over USD 1 million on lobbying through these trade associations. This support enables the trade associations to continue to slow progress on climate policies at a national and international level. Delta should show leadership by setting a clear position on climate policy and implementing processes to withdraw from trade associations that oppose positive climate policies.
Delta receives a trend score of -. If the company were reassessed in the near future, its score would likely decrease. Delta is projected to greatly exceed its carbon budget for 2021-2035. Although the company is increasing the amount of SAF used in its fuel mix and is working in partnership with manufacturers and corporate clients to reach 10% SAF by 2030, this is not sufficient. The company needs to reduce its emissions intensity by approximately 3.8% per year to align with its 1.5°C pathway. It should also reduce the offsets it intends to use to achieve its targets.
Delta set a target to reach net zero by 2050 for its scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, covering its airline operations and value chain. By 2030, the company aims to procure more than 400 million gallons of SAF annually to meet its 10% fuel mix target.
The company intends to invest USD 1 billion in its climate transition by 2030. This will include expanding the electrification of ground support equipment to 25% by 2022, investing in SAF, and renewing the fleet to achieve fuel efficiencies. However, Delta relies on offsets to achieve its net-zero goals.
Delta does not disclose its current R&D on carbon removal and reduction technologies. The company uses less than 5% SAF in its fuel mix and is currently not operating the most efficient aircraft. Delta is making operational improvements such as route planning.
The company’s reported scope 1 emissions intensity decreased by approximately 1.4% per year from 2015-2019. This decrease was not aligned with the company’s 1.5°C pathway. The company then saw a dramatic increase in emissions intensity in 2020, due to COVID-19.
Delta’s targets and funding pledges suggest it is committed to the low-carbon transition, but its emissions intensity reductions to date do not demonstrate this. Delta is reliant on others to achieve its targeted increase in SAF and ultimately net-zero goals.
No evidence was found of the company’s commitment to social dialogue or of the categories of stakeholders the company engages with on a just transition. Furthermore, no evidence was found to demonstrate the company’s ongoing social dialogue and meaningful engagement with affected stakeholders.
No evidence was found of the company undertaking low-carbon transition planning to mitigate the social impacts of the transition on workers, affected stakeholders and the company’s business relationships. Additionally, no evidence was found to the company’s engagement in social dialogue or engagement with stakeholders in its just transition planning.
No public commitment by the company was found stating its intention to create and support access to green and decent jobs as part of the low-carbon transition. Moreover, no evidence was found of the company’s action to promote these jobs in a way that ensures gender balance and inclusion of vulnerable groups. Additionally, no relevant disclosure was found of the company’s assessment of employment dislocation risks.
No public commitment by the company was found stating its intention to reskill and upskill workers displaced by the transition to a low-carbon economy. Additionally, no evidence was found that the company reskills and upskills workers in a way that ensures gender balance and inclusion of vulnerable groups.
No relevant disclosure was found to show if the company identifies impacts of the low-carbon transition on social protection for workers and affected stakeholders, nor how it contributes to social protection. Additionally, no evidence was found that the company expects its business relationships to contribute to the social protection of their workers and affected stakeholders.
No relevant disclosure was found to show how the company identifies any misalignment of its lobbying activities with policies and regulations that support the just transition, nor of the measures it takes to address misalignment. Furthermore, no evidence was found that the company lobbies for policies and regulations for green and decent job creation; retention, education and reskilling; and social protection for workers.
The company commits to respecting human rights. While the company expects its suppliers to respect the ILO fundamental rights at work, the company’s Code of Ethics and Business Conduct does not disclose a commitment to respect all the ILO fundamental rights at work. Furthermore, no evidence was found of the company’s process to identify, assess and mitigate salient human rights risks in its own operations and supply chain. Moreover, no evidence was found of the company disclosing the stakeholders whose human rights have been affected by its activities. The company does, however, have a grievance mechanism available to workers and external stakeholders.
The company commits to respecting the health and safety of its workers and expects the same commitment of its business relationships. While the company discloses the proportion of its direct workforce covered by collective bargaining agreements, no relevant disclosure was found regarding its support of suppliers in collective bargaining practices. The company discloses some indicators of workforce diversity, including the age, gender and ethnicity of its workforce by employee category. Although it has a time-bound target for increasing female representation in senior positions, no evidence was found of a public commitment by the company to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the broad sense. The company can also strengthen its disclosure on its living wage and working hours practices.
The company has a policy prohibiting bribery and corruption, and it includes corresponding clauses in its contracts with business relationships. However, no evidence was found of a public commitment to protecting personal data or privacy statement regarding the collection, sharing and access to personal data. Moreover, no evidence within policy documents was found regarding the company’s tax strategy or its approach to lobbying and political engagement. The company does, however, disclose its expenditures on lobbying activities.