Eco-design at the heart of Safran

As part of its social and environmental responsibility policy, Safran is actively committed to eco-design. Interview with Bertrand Fiol, the Group Advisor on Toxicology and Chemical Risks in the Safran Sustainable Development Department.

What exactly is eco-design?

Eco-design means taking into account a product's impact on health and the environment throughout its life-cycle, right from the design and development phases. This involves reducing fuel consumption and the emission of pollutants from plane and helicopter engines, reducing or completely removing products that are harmful to the environment or health in our production sites and promote product recycling. The approach has to be viewed as a whole in order to avoid transferring a risk from one stage of the life-cycle to another.

In real terms, how does eco-design fit into Safran's activities?

For more than forty years, HSE* constraints have been taken into account in the improvement of our products' technical performance. Over the last few years, we have taken a more upstream approach in order to have an overall analysis of the five key impacts identified by the Group (see inset), focusing particularly on chemical substances. Consequently, we have established and deployed a minimum requirements standard, assessment tools and a list of recommended and prohibited chemical substances. For example, we have replaced the majority of degreasing products that contained chlorinated solvents with detergent solutions, which are much less harmful for the environment. In addition, the Group has forbidden the use of certain substances or has introduced ambitious programs to replace them, in the case of lead or cadmium, for instance. Another example is Morpho, a world leader in the smart-card industry. The company has launched the "Simply Green" solution, a card made of wood fiber (rather than plastic), which is completely bio-degradable and comes from sustainably-managed forests.

The Group is also pursuing its work to reduce the environmental impact of its engines. In compliance with the ACARE** objectives, Safran is aiming to reduce NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions by 80% and to cut CO2 emissions and engine noise by 50%. As regards the latter, Aircelle has significantly contributed to improving the acoustic performance of the engine-nacelle block, by using honeycomb technologies that absorb the noise generated.

Have any initiatives been implemented to promote the recycling of your products?

In partnership with Airbus, GDF Suez and Equip'Aéro Services, Safran has set up a company called Tarmac Aerosave, based in Tarbes. Its mission is to optimize the dismantling of aircraft, in order to draw maximum value from an aircraft's parts and materials at the end of its life-cycle: recovery, re-use or recycling of parts. Since the launch of this activity in 2009, Tarmac Aerosave has already dismantled around thirty aircraft.

* Health, Safety, Environment
** ACARE: Advisory Council for Aviation Research

Five priority areas

Since eco-design covers a broad field, Safran has decided to focus on reducing five environmental impacts linked to its activities:

  • toxicology and eco-toxicology, i.e. the use of products that are harmful to health or to the environment (solvents, surface treatments, etc.)
  • energy consumption, (first and foremost, that of aircraft engines)
  • depletion of non-renewable energy resources
  • atmospheric emissions
  • noise