Southwest Airlines is a publicly listed company headquartered in the United States of America. In 2021, its revenue was USD 15.8 billion. Southwest is a low-cost airline, carrying more air travellers flying nonstop within the USA than any other airline. It serves 121 airports across 11 countries.
Southwest remains a member of the Airlines for America (A4A) trade association. In 2021, the company spent USD 796,113 on lobbying expenses through the association. A4A has been documented as having a climate-negative position, working against ambitious climate action in the USA. Southwest can increase its credibility in this area by setting a clear position on climate policies and withdrawing from associations that oppose climate-positive policies.
Southwest has several programmes to influence client behaviour and reduce clients’ GHG emissions. The Green Incentives programme gives corporate clients the opportunity to earn and use funds for sustainability initiatives. The SAF Beta Program engages select corporate clients in the use of SAF in Southwest’s operations. The company can improve by setting quantitative GHG emissions reduction targets for these programmes and implementing additional actions to meet those objectives.
Southwest has set a long-term decarbonisation target and an interim target. However, it is not on track to meet either of these. Southwest is required to reduce its emissions intensity by over 4% annually to align with its 1.5°C pathway, notably more than the 0% annual change it has achieved in the past five years. The company can improve by setting further interim targets, at intervals no greater than five years apart. This will maintain focus on short- and mid-term progress, which is essential to deliver long-term change.
Despite only purchasing from one aircraft manufacturer, Southwest has no publicly available strategy or major initiatives to drive emissions reductions through its supply chain. The company has orders for more than 400 new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which will increase fuel efficiency. It also plans to invest more than USD 10 billion in new and existing aircraft orders to reduce carbon emissions. The company can go further by encouraging Boeing to set science-based targets and developing joint low-carbon research and development projects.
Southwest receives a trend score of -. If the company were reassessed in the near future, its score would likely decrease. Southwest has set emissions reduction targets, including a 2050 net-zero target. However, the company is not on track to achieve the reduction in emissions intensity required to align with its 1.5°C pathway. Southwest is projected to greatly exceed its carbon budget for 2022-2036. The company has committed to increasing the proportion of SAF used to 10% by 2030 but does not have a decarbonisation strategy beyond 2030.
Southwest has set a goal to be net zero by 2050. It has set an interim target to reduce emissions per available seat mile by 20% by 2030 compared to 2019. The company does not intend to use offsets to reach this interim target.
Southwest will replace 10% of its jet fuel consumption with SAF. It has invested in a Department of Energy-backed project to produce scalable SAF. It is also working with select corporate clients to fund SAF. The company also plans to increase its delivery schedule of more fuel-efficient aircraft.
Southwest is investing in fuel-saving initiatives and electrifying ground service equipment fleets. It is also participating in operations to make more efficient use of airspace and rolling out its central monitoring system to make energy savings when an aircraft is parked.
The company’s reported emissions intensity has remained mostly static since 2016. As a result, the company requires an annual reduction in its emissions intensity of 4.3% to align with its 1.5°C pathway.
Southwest’s ambition to be net zero by 2050 is supported by its 2030 interim target and actions to increase the proportion of SAF used. However, Southwest’s transition plan only extends to 2030 and the company still aligns itself with trade associations that oppose climate policies.
The company publicly discloses a commitment to engage in social dialogue with workers and unions. However, no relevant disclosure was found regarding the categories of stakeholders it engages with on a just transition. Nor was there any evidence to show 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 its business relationships. Additionally, no evidence was found to demonstrate 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.
The company discloses the actions it takes to provide training and education opportunities for workers and affected stakeholders. For instance, it offers a Career Mobility programme which provides classes and support to employees for career transitions within the company. Additionally, the company provides academic scholarships to students along with career skills training. However, no relevant disclosure was found of the company embedding equality of opportunity for women and vulnerable groups in these actions. Furthermore, no evidence was found of the company having a process for identifying skills gaps for workers and affected stakeholders or a public commitment to help workers displaced by the transition to reskill or upskill.
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 and the ILO fundamental rights at work. However, no evidence was found of an expectation that its business relationships respect all of the ILO fundamental rights at work. Furthermore, the company can strengthen its disclosure on its human rights due diligence process and engagement with affected stakeholders.
While the company commits to respecting the health and safety of its workers, no evidence was found of an expectation of the same commitment by its business relationships. Furthermore, no evidence was found of a company commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the broad sense. The company discloses some information on collective bargaining and workforce diversity fundamentals, including the age and gender of its workforce by employee category. However, the company can strengthen its disclosure on these subjects, as well as on its living wage and working hours practices.
While the company has a policy prohibiting bribery and corruption, no relevant disclosure was found of corresponding clauses in its contracts with business relationships. Furthermore, no evidence was found of a company commitment to protect personal data or of a privacy statement regarding the collection, sharing and access to personal data of employees and customers. Moreover, no evidence within policy documents was found regarding the company’s tax strategy or lobbying and political engagement approach.