Nature and Biodiversity

First Movers Coalition: Engaging suppliers for sustainable aviation and beyond

Aircraft are taking off on a new path towards sustainable aviation

Aircraft are taking off on a new path towards sustainable aviation Image: Shutterstock

Dilip Krishna
CTO, Sustainability & Climate and Managing Director, Deloitte
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Sustainable Aviation Fuel

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 is likely possible if the right technologies are brought to commercial scale within the next decade.
  • For aviation specifically, the Sustainable Aviation Challenge has launched on UpLink to accelerate the development and adoption of sustainable aviation fuel and other propulsion solutions.
  • Across all sectors, the World Economic Forum is launching a supplier database to surface suppliers of innovative clean technologies, including successful participants from the Sustainable Aviation Challenge.

Heavy industries, such as steel, chemicals and concrete, are critical to everyday things we rely on, from surgical supplies to the buildings we live in. But decarbonizing these industries is difficult, because the processes are energy intensive and the chemical processes that are used to produce these materials themselves release carbon. The First Movers Coalition was set up to address this challenge by accelerating the adoption of nascent low-carbon technologies in these sectors.

The First Movers Coalition is a global initiative focused on decarbonizing seven sectors of heavy industry and long-distance transport that produce hard-to-abate CO2 emissions. These sectors account for 30% of global emissions and cover aluminium, aviation, chemicals, concrete, shipping, steel and trucking. The coalition is also advancing carbon dioxide removal technologies.

To achieve this mission, the First Movers Coalition is structured around three priorities:

1. Recruiting demand across the value chain to demonstrate market viability

Members of the First Movers Coalition commit to advance purchasing a proportion of the industrial materials and long-distance transport they need from suppliers using technologies that are far less carbon generating than today’s standard. More than 86 global corporations are members of the First Movers Coalition.

2. Surfacing supply to accelerate and catalyze investment decisions

While global demand for low- and zero-emission products increases, there is a need to accelerate the supply of these alternatives. To this end, the First Movers Coalition is convening a series of in-country workshops, with the aim of accelerating local supply by bringing together key stakeholders from governments, financial institutions, demand actors, domestic suppliers and more. In addition, the coalition is launching several innovation challenges and creating a supplier database – more below.

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3. Establishing tools and processes to streamline procurement

To support demand and supply, the First Movers Coalition will also coordinate collaborative requests for proposals for certain sectors and will host sessions geared towards procurement. During Climate Week, for example, procurement leaders from global companies met in New York for a discussion on procurement innovation for low-carbon technologies.

First Movers Coalition Priorities Image: World Economic Forum

What is the World Economic Forum doing to reduce aviation's carbon footprint?

The sustainable aviation challenge

On August 24, 2023, the World Economic Forum with its partners launched the Sustainable Aviation Challenge on UpLink as a critical step for helping to ensure sufficient supply. Aviation is one of the eight hard-to-abate sectors being tackled by the First Movers Coalition and the sector accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With air travel projected to increase over this decade, these emissions are only poised to further escalate.

Today, there are limited solutions to this problem, with modest progress in sustainable aviation fuel and alternative propulsion technologies, but innovation must accelerate rapidly. As forecast by the IEA, 50% of the emission reductions necessary for 2050 net-zero targets must be driven by technologies that are either still in their conceptual stages or have not yet attained the necessary scalability.

At the core of aviation's decarbonization efforts in the short to medium term is sustainable aviation fuel. This fuel, sourced mostly from organics, waste or renewables is a compelling alternative to traditional jet fuel given that it can 'drop-in' to existing fuel management facilities without requiring huge changes in airport infrastructure, among other things. Yet, scalability and feedstock limits often hinder widespread adoption. Advanced fuel technologies, such as alcohol-to-jet and e-fuels, are crucial for long-term decarbonization, but their nascent stages and lack of scalability pose challenges.

To this end, the First Movers Coalition, Salesforce and Deloitte are excited to launch the Sustainable Aviation Challenge on UpLink to accelerate the development and adoption of sustainable aviation fuel and other propulsion solutions, with the broader vision of enhancing the viability of promising start-ups in this space. The challenge brings together leaders from the World Economic Forum, the First Movers Coalition, industry leaders and technology innovators to drive the aviation industry forward.

Top innovators will be able to leverage the Forum’s network to foster collaborations with industry players to catalyze the value chain. This challenge will help propel exciting market innovation and underscore the joint efforts of startups, governments, investors and corporate buyers to achieve global climate objectives.

The supplier database

The organizations identified by the Sustainable Aviation Challenge and their decarbonization projects will also be added to the First Movers Coalition Supplier Database. This will enable buyers to access these innovators over the long-term, in addition to suppliers across other sectors.

To be formally launched at Davos in January 2024, the Supplier Database will:

• Surface supply of near-zero emission products that First Movers Coalition members and other companies can procure to achieve their commitments and decarbonization goals.

• Identify current and future value chain suppliers to goods that are bottlenecks in the relevant sectors to accelerate partnerships and offtake to unlock supply. Examples include green hydrogen, SAF feedstock, carbon capture usage and storage and other key value chain suppliers.

• Be the single source for credible suppliers to share details about their supply projects, which reduces buyers’ efforts in initial identification, research and filtering of potential suppliers

Buyers can access information provided by suppliers through an interactive dashboard. A company that has signed the First Movers Coalition Commitment for Aviation, for example, will be able to log in and view information about suppliers working on the latest sustainable aviation fuel or other propulsion solutions. The buyer will be able to reach out to the supplier to initiate conversations around partnership or procurement. Whether it’s a ten-person start-up that participated in the Sustainable Aviation Challenge or a Fortune 500 company upgrading existing plants to be able to produce near-zero emissions steel, the Supplier Database will be an important enabler for long-term market creation.

Ensuring sufficient supply is critical for First Movers Coalition Members to be able to meet their commitments and for these early markets to achieve the scale needed to reach net zero by 2050. Through challenges, such as the Sustainable Aviation Challenge, and platforms, such as the First Movers Coalition Supplier Database, suppliers will gain easier access to buyers and to other suppliers or innovators looking to collaborate to lower risk.

First Movers Coalition Members will have access to an early-release version of the Supplier Database in the fall of 2023, followed by a public release in January 2024.

There are many ways to get involved.

• You can submit an application for the Sustainable Aviation Challenge

Join the First Movers Coalition

• Join the Supplier Database in January as a supplier or access the Supplier Database as a buyer

• Reach out to Dilip Krishna to learn more about the Supplier Database or provide feedback

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