Aircraft engines are estimated to be responsible for about 2% of the carbon emissions globally as they are heavily reliant on fossil fuels. A number of technologies are developed to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the air force sector, but the development of such fuels is expected to take more than 15 years, according to GlobalData. ESG is meanwhile gaining importance in the defence sector.

Discover the leading providers of ESG in air defence

Using its intel, insights and decades-long experience in the sector, Air Force Technology has listed some of the leading companies offering products and services related to ESG in air defence.

The information provided in the download document is drafted for environmental research and ESG analysts, climate risk managers and analysts, and due diligence analysts involved in ESG innovations in the aerospace and defence sectors.

The download contains detailed information on suppliers and their product offerings, as well as contact details to aid purchase or hiring decisions.

Innovative technologies supporting ESG deployment in the air force

A number of technological advancements are being made to address ESG in the Aerospace & Defence sector.

Sustainable aviation fuel (Saf )

Aircraft engines release several harmful carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which can damage the environment. SAF made from biowaste, cooking oil and forestry waste can help in reducing these emissions by 80%. Research is also ongoing on using electro-fuels that are based on carbon from waste as well as hydrogen produced using renewable energy for use as SAFs.

Hybrid-electric propulsion

Improving fuel efficiency is another key focus area in the aerospace sector to reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Hybrid-electric propulsion can help in improving fuel efficiency by using power supplied by the battery to partly power aircraft propulsion.

Electric propulsion can be used during the high thrust operations of an aircraft such as take-off. Alternatively, it can be used during low-thrust cruising operations of a flight thereby improving fuel efficiency.

Hydrogen-powered aircraft

Hydrogen is being considered a viable alternative fuel option for powering aircraft. Hydrogen-powered aircraft do not produce any emissions and can also eliminate some air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide apart from preventing contrail formation. Airbus is currently developing zero-emission aircraft that will be powered by hydrogen and may be deployed by 2035.

The production of hydrogen from low-carbon sources, however, is currently limited, which is acting as a hurdle for using it as a fuel in aircraft. Research is ongoing on the production of hydrogen from renewable energy sources although it is currently in the nascent stage.

Lightweight composite materials

Lightweight composite materials can drastically reduce the weight of airframes, which reduces the fuel being used by the aircraft. The materials can also accelerate the adoption of electric aircraft as the energy density burden for batteries is reduced.


Batteries remain the main component for the wider adoption of electric aircraft. The existing batteries, however, are not energy-dense for use in an entire flight. Energy-dense batteries are being developed but are likely to be available only after a few years.

Social and governance challenges for ESG in air defence

Supply chain management

The rare minerals and metals used for manufacturing batteries and components for aircraft are concentrated in countries that do not have the best human rights records. The procurement of such minerals raises strategic and social sustainability issues.

China, for example, holds some of the largest deposits of rare earth minerals and was the main source for the construction of advanced systems in the US. The rising conflict between the US and China, however, led the Pentagon to propose legislation to end reliance on China for rare earth minerals.

Lack of diversity

The aerospace and defence industry lacks gender diversity as witnessed by women working in support, HR or legal areas rather than operational roles. Diversity and inclusion can improve innovation and employee engagement while enhancing decision-making.