Delta Air Lines: ‘Sustainability Now’ a Key Factor in Vendor Selection

IASA: Nachhaltige Luftfahrt - Sustainable Aviation

By Ashton Morrow

Nov. 24, 2015: Delta provisions some 100 million textile units on board its flights each year, including everything from bedding and tablecloths, to Main Cabin pillow covers and iconic red blankets—21 different varieties in all. Finding suppliers to create the right quality look and feel is important, as is the airline’s commitment to becoming a more sustainable business.

So when the airline’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) team launched a request for proposals from 24 different suppliers around the globe, the team took this process and goal one step further – by examining the working conditions, emergency procedures, environmental impact and business ethics of textile suppliers on an annual basis.

This focus on sustainable sourcing fulfills a significant, long-term commitment to ethical and responsible sourcing and is more than just legal compliance. “Delta is playing a larger role in ensuring sustainable sourcing of the products we provide to our customers by vetting factories that produce our textile products,” said Bob Currey, Managing Director – Supply Chain Management. “Our team personally visited all factories along the creation of Delta’s on-board textiles, from those making the finished products, to those developing component pieces like thread and dye.” Through this new process, Delta will be able to continue to work with its contracted third party vendors and sustain manufacturing relationships in China, but with increased oversight and brand involvement.

The project took flight at the end of 2014, when Delta tasked factories with producing a range of products, including bedding, napkins and slippers in Delta One, hot towels, pillows and pillow cases throughout the cabin and cart covers, hot food handling mitts and potholder pads used by in-flight crew.

Delta selected nine suppliers in March 2015 and began the vetting process. With the support of third-party auditor Pourshins Procurement, the team paid visits to 27 factories, which were evaluated based on their compliance with more than 60 prequalification criteria such as visible exit signs, workers’ ability to discuss suggestions with management and factories’ health and safety records.

At the end of the process, Delta chose four leading facilities, reducing the number of suppliers by two-thirds from 2014 and increasing efficiency to ensure more responsive oversight of product quality and sustainability.

This SCM project is one example of how Delta is successfully embedding innovative sustainability initiatives into the airline’s operating divisions. Other efforts include launching the industry’s first carbon-offset program in 2007, working towards securing carbon-neutral growth since 2012 and choosing locally sourced in-flight food options where possible.

Source: Delta Air Lines