Our environmental strategy

United’s ambition is to play a key role in making air travel more sustainable. We are leading the way in reimagining the future of aviation with environmental responsibility and sustainability at the forefront.

The first step toward achieving our ambition is to acknowledge the challenge we face. Aviation is considered a hard-to-abate sector: solutions do not yet exisit at the scale needed to decarbonize. Aviation currently contributes up to 3% global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and without action, that is expected to increase. United is committed to tackling the root causes of our GHG emissions so that we can achieve meaningful, long-lasting change that supports a more sustainable future for our business, employees and customers, and planet.

Our goal

At the end of 2020, we pledged a net zero goal of reducing our GHG emissions by 100% by 2050 without relying on the use of traditional carbon offsets, like planting trees or purchasing voluntary offsets. We were the first airline globally to publicly announce we would not rely on offsets to realize our climate goals. We believe that, while this is the hard thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. It allows us to focus on taking tangible steps to mitigate climate change impacts from our operations and create the future we expect and deserve.

Beyond our climate ambitions, we are committed to excellence throughout our operations, the foundation upon which we build our sustainability initiatives. United is further committed to transparency through robust public disclosure of our strategy, our actions and our performance as we know this is essential to track progress against our climate goals. We aim to continue enhancing our reporting and alignment to leading industry standards such as the Task force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in subsequent public reports.

Our climate strategy

United’s resolution to operate a more environmentally sustainable and responsible airline is woven into our strategy and values. We are committed to action and to holding ourselves accountable. In addition to our 2050 goal, we have established a mid-term objective of reducing our carbon intensity by 50% by 2035, as compared to 2019. These targets, based in science, are the cornerstones of our climate ambition. United’s strategy to realize these goals are centered around four key pathways:

  1. REDUCE our environmental footprint
  2. INNOVATE in carbon reduction technologies
  3. REMOVE carbon
  4. COLLABORATE with various stakeholders
  1. REDUCE our environmental footprint: We are focused on maximizing operational and fuel efficiency and reducing the usage of conventional (or fossil) jet fuel, the combustion of which is the largest contributor to our environmental footprint.

  2. INNOVATE in carbon reduction technologies: We recognize that we will not be able to eliminate all jet fuel consumption by 2050. Our primary pathway toward reducing our environmental footprint is through replacing conventional jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel ("SAF"), the most promising solution that can reduce emissions from our operations, based on lifecycle emissions reductions.

  3. REMOVE carbon: We intend to focus on efforts beyond current ways of reducing emissions by also focusing on carbon removal, through technologies to either sequester carbon or to potentially utilize captured carbon to make low-carbon, or even carbon-negative, fuels in the future.

  4. COLLABORATE with various stakeholders: We know we cannot do this alone. United will work in collaboration with employees, customers, airports, suppliers, cross-industry partners, policymakers and others to advance the future of sustainable flight.