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Safran tackles Climate Change

Any sec­tor that does not ful­ly under­stand the chal­lenges of tomor­row can­not remain in the lead, espe­cial­ly when it is so inter­na­tion­al. Inter­view with Valérie Guénon, Safran’s direc­tor of prod­uct envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy, on the issue of cli­mate change. She has been with this Group for 33 years and holds a Mas­ter of Applied Sci­ences degree from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Delaware (USA). And envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion is at the heart of her missions.

What precisely are your missions? 

I rep­re­sent my com­pa­ny in orga­ni­za­tions and insti­tu­tions that set poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions for avi­a­tion and the envi­ron­ment. The envi­ron­men­tal foot­print of an air­craft cov­ers the green­house effect (main­ly through CO2 emis­sions), air qual­i­ty (pol­lut­ing emis­sions) and noise. I have in-house Safran engi­neers work­ing in this area. I have spent part of my career bridg­ing the gap between pol­i­cy and reg­u­la­tion on one hand and sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy on the oth­er. I also spend an increas­ing amount of my time on train­ing and inter­nal and exter­nal infor­ma­tion on these subjects. 

What is your environment-related strategy? 

Decar­bon­is­ing avi­a­tion is a pri­or­i­ty for the Safran group and for avi­a­tion in gen­er­al. It was a pri­or­i­ty before Covid-19, and it is just as much a pri­or­i­ty now, if not more so. We are con­tribut­ing to the glob­al and Euro­pean avi­a­tion roadmaps, which include many levers: more fuel-effi­cient air­craft, the use of sus­tain­able fuels, elec­tric and hydro­gen tech­nolo­gies, oper­a­tional and air traf­fic man­age­ment mea­sures, decar­bon­i­sa­tion of air­port and man­u­fac­tur­er ground oper­a­tions, etc. As an engine and equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­er, we will con­tribute through future ultra-effi­cient engines, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and the use of hydro­gen and sus­tain­able fuels. We are also con­tribut­ing as an equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­er by mak­ing equip­ment lighter and more elec­tric (land­ing gear, air­craft seats and inte­ri­ors, nacelles, etc.). 

Has the group for which you work on a daily basis fully grasped the challenges of tomorrow? 

Aero­nau­tics has always been a cut­ting-edge sec­tor, an area where we have to be irre­proach­able. It start­ed with safe­ty, then per­for­mance. We have divid­ed CO2 emis­sions per pas­sen­ger and per kilo­me­tre by a fac­tor of five over fifty years by reduc­ing air­craft con­sump­tion. For more than 30 years the indus­try has iden­ti­fied the envi­ron­ment as a pri­or­i­ty on top of these and we are work­ing to reduce noise, pol­lu­tant emis­sions and CO2 emis­sions. In 2008, the avi­a­tion sec­tor was one of the first to make col­lec­tive com­mit­ments to reduce its car­bon foot­print by 2050. Safran has devel­oped itself remark­ably over the past decades and is now tack­ling the cli­mate chal­lenge, despite the unprece­dent­ed cri­sis we are experiencing. 

Is environmental protection one of your professional concerns? 

They are at the heart of my pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ty. I took this job three years ago because I was con­vinced that it is the main issue for my com­pa­ny and because it lends sense and mean­ing to my work. The issue of cli­mate change brings togeth­er sci­ence, pol­i­tics, eco­nom­ics, soci­ety and even phi­los­o­phy. This sub­ject needs inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty, coop­er­a­tion and a sense of com­mu­ni­ty. It’s quite a chal­lenge for the human race. It is exciting. 

What posture do UTC students need to grasp in order to succeed in Safran’s industrial sector? 

Know­ing that Safran devotes 80% of its research and tech­nol­o­gy invest­ments to reduc­ing the envi­ron­men­tal foot­print of air­craft, there is a strong prob­a­bil­i­ty that, when you work for Safran, you will con­tribute to this objec­tive. There are many skills in demand. Mate­ri­als and process­es, aero­dy­nam­ics, mechan­ics, elec­tric­i­ty and elec­tron­ics, sys­tems engi­neer­ing, etc. Behav­iour­al skills are very impor­tant. We need engi­neers who are open-mind­ed, who know how to lis­ten, who dare to inno­vate, who are moti­vat­ed to win as team­mem­bers, and who are at ease with inter­per­son­al and inter­na­tion­al rela­tions. The vari­ety of pro­files is a rich­ness and, I will nev­er say it enough, women are not yet numer­ous enough in our pro­fes­sions. UTC cul­ti­vates adapt­abil­i­ty and open­ness, notably through inter­na­tion­al expe­ri­ences and teach­ing which is not only sci­en­tif­ic and technical.

Le magazine

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