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New Challenge Backed by Salesforce and Industry Leaders Aims to Accelerate Sustainable Aviation

Today, Salesforce, Airbus, Breakthrough Energy, Boom Supersonic, Deloitte, Eni, JetBlue Ventures, Qantas Airways Limited, and World Energy launched a call for ecopreneurs to submit innovative solutions to support the decarbonization of the aviation sector. This initiative is a collaboration between the First Movers Coalition (FMC) and UpLink to scale and commercialize innovations in sustainable aviation.  

Why it’s important: While air travel plays a vital role in connecting people and driving the global economy, the aviation industry contributes to roughly 2% of total global greenhouse gas emissions

Driving the news: The Sustainable Aviation Challenge calls for solutions that decarbonize aviation, like sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) or battery-powered flight.

  • SAF is a type of fuel produced from renewable resources, organic materials, or waste feedstocks, and is designed to significantly reduce emissions. Despite its benefits, however, SAF is still expensive and not yet widely available. 
  • The challenge also invites solutions beyond fuel alternatives, like hydrogen and batteries, innovations in feedstock, engineering, and physical and market infrastructure.

The Sustainable Aviation Challenge is supported by the FMC, a joint initiative between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the U.S. Department of State, launched in 2021. 

  • FMC’s goal is to scale emerging technologies for hard-to-decarbonize industries representing more than one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These include aviation, aluminum, chemicals, concrete, shipping, steel, trucking, and direct air capture. 

Go deeper: Proposals will be accepted from August 24 through October 2, 2023, and “Top Innovators” will be announced later in the year. 

  • The challenge is hosted on UpLink, a global hub for innovation managed by the World Economic Forum, with support from Deloitte and Salesforce.
  • “Top Innovators” will benefit from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and UpLink network in brand building, visibility, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
  • The effort will prioritize collaboration between innovators and leaders in sustainable aviation to support growth, commercialization, and deployment of novel solutions.


  • “To meet our climate goals, we must bring disruptive clean technologies to market at scale. Together with our partners, Salesforce thoughtfully approached this sustainability challenge as a way to support and foster innovative ideas from ecopreneurs who aim to help decarbonize the aviation industry.” – Suzanne DiBianca, EVP and Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce

To meet our climate goals, we must bring disruptive clean technologies to market at scale. Together with our partners, Salesforce thoughtfully approached this sustainability challenge as a way to support and foster innovative ideas from ecopreneurs who aim to help decarbonize the aviation industry.

Suzanne DiBianca, EVP and Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce
  • “At Airbus, we aim to lead the aviation industry’s decarbonization journey as it works towards its goal to achieve ‘net zero emissions by 2050.’ To achieve this target, aviation pursues all relevant measures and innovation pathways. We are pleased to support the Sustainable Aviation Challenge together with the WEF and its partners to foster innovative solutions to decarbonize.” – Marc Hamy, VP Corporate Affairs, Airbus
  • “We’re thrilled to support the Sustainable Aviation Fuel UpLink Challenge and collaborate with diverse stakeholders with the ultimate goal to make flying more sustainable. This initiative resonates with our commitment to driving innovation in aviation sustainability and unlocking groundbreaking solutions that will reshape the future of air travel.” – Stephen Snyder, Managing Director, Operations & Partnerships, JetBlue Ventures
  • “Accelerating climate technology innovation is essential to decarbonizing aviation, one of the hardest-to-abate sectors. World Energy is excited to support the Sustainable Aviation Fuel UpLink Challenge. Winning start-ups will be World Energy’s future partners, helping propel the aviation industry to new heights.” – Adam Klauber, Vice President of Sustainability and Digital Supply Chain,World Energy
  • “Scaling SAF is integral to ensuring that travel remains a net good. Boom is proud to support the First Movers Coalition Challenge on Sustainable Aviation Fuel, helping to mature and commercialize essential emerging technologies.” – Kathy Savitt, President and Chief Business Officer, Boom Supersonic
  • “The Sustainable Aviation Challenge launch stands as a testament to the First Movers Coalition focus on impact. It seeks to surface the supply needed to meet the $15 billion demand signal from FMC members. The challenge doesn’t just focus on legacy producers; it actively seeks to identify and support budding innovators and emerging market players, which are key members of the net-zero puzzle solution.” – Nancy Gillis, Programme Head, Climate Action & First Movers Coalition
  • “UpLink helps scale world-class innovations by creating bridges between entrepreneurs and the support they need from investors, partners, industry leaders, and experts. The Sustainable Aviation Challenge offers a unique opportunity to connect promising start-ups with the ecosystem required for achieving net-zero aviation, thus driving action for the SDGs.” – John Dutton, Head of UpLink, Member of the Executive Committee

Fast facts: 

  • Salesforce joined FMC in 2021 as a founding member company with a commitment to replace 5% of the company’s annual business travel jet fuel usage with low- and no-carbon alternatives by 2030.
    • In support of this initiative, Salesforce has purchased SAF sourced from World Energy, from United Airlines as part of the EcoSkies Alliance and from JetBlue as part of the Sustainable Travel Partners program. 
    • These purchases are helping stimulate a market for low carbon alternatives to traditional jet fuel.
  • UpLink has run more than 48 challenges and selected over 400 “Top Innovators” with innovative solutions across critical areas of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including health, food, freshwater, ocean, plastics, education, climate, and more. 

More information:

  • Learn how local innovators tackle global challenges with technology and  collaboration
  • Learn how the aviation industry is aiming for net zero by 2050
  • Read Agenda oped about how innovation can accelerate aviation’s net zero journey
  • Read more Salesforce sustainability news here

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