On Boeing’s 100th anniversary, South African Airways (SAA) celebrated Africa’s first sustainable biofuel flight. The flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, operated by a Boeing 737-800, used biojet fuel produced from Sunchem’s nicotine-free tobacco plant Solaris, refined by AltAir Fuels, and supplied by SkyNRG. Sunchem and SkyNRG are both RSB certified, and AltAir is in the process of RSB certification.
This flight and project serves as inspiration for others around the world that it is possible to produce environmentally sustainable and socially responsible biofuel that improves lives of many smallholder farmers and helps with job salvation and poverty alleviation. Project Solaris in the Limpopo region is a great example of working in partnership with others to bring workable solutions to South Africa. With Boeing’s support, the RSB and WWF-SA are working in this project to ensure smallholders can compete with commercial farming operations in supplying feedstock to biofuel producers.
We hope these positive impacts can be duplicated around the world in various regions with diverse feedstocks, and that there will be more flights like this one so that aviation can become more sustainable and reduce its impact on GHG emissions.

We are also humbled and honoured to be in South Africa celebrating Nelson Mandela’s birthday coming up on 18 July. The Nelson Mandela Foundation continues his very important work on combatting poverty and improving human rights, which aligns with RSB’s Principle 4 on human and labour rights and Principle 5 on rural and social development.

Background Information on RSB’s Work in South Africa

In South Africa, the RSB partnered with Sunchem SA and SkyNRG who developed a novel energy tobacco crop called “Solaris”. Solaris is a traditionally cross-bred variety of tobacco that contains no nicotine, has high seed and limited leaf production compared to traditional tobacco. These normally undesirable traits make Solaris an ideal feedstock for biofuel production.

The crop is cultivated by smallholder and commercial farmers in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Solaris is an exciting crop because it provides an opportunity to grow sustainable bioenergy resources, while stimulating socio-economic development in South Africa.

The RSB continues to work with Boeing, WWF-SA and others on this project to help safeguard natural resources, water, and food for growing populations. WWF-SA is working with the RSB to ensure the environmental and social credentials of emerging biofuel value chains are adequate and trust-worthy as RSB is recognised as incorporating the highest sustainability demands for such projects.

The project was launched in Marble Hall in May 2014, with Solaris now scaled up in South Africa as a locally produced feedstock for sustainable biojet fuel production.

The RSB’s partner South African Airways recently celebrated Africa’s first sustainable biofuel flight (see above).

Stay tuned on this page for updates on RSB’s work with smallholders in Africa.


Watch a video prepared by the 5050 Community, featuring RSB’s Executive Director Rolf Hogan. It was broadcast in South Africa in March 2015.


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