Air New Zealand is picking up the pace on the sustainable business front and has announced that Countdown’s sustainability director will be moving from the land of supermarkets to the airline industry as the carrier's new chief sustainability officer.

Kiri Hannifin was previously the director of corporate affairs, quality, health and safety and sustainability at Countdown and has worked for the Australian-owned supermarket chain since 2015.

Air New Zealand told the NZX in its announcement this morning that the new position recognised the importance of sustainability “across all aspects of the company’s operation”.

The airline had an increased focus on addressing its environmental impact, it said.

The airline said Hannifin had “spearheaded” Countdown’s programme to reduce emissions and had managed the health, safety and wellbeing of the company’s 21,000 staff while also leading its internal and external stakeholder management activity.

Air NZ chief executive Greg Foran said sustainability was the biggest issue facing the airline’s future and needed increased focus “from a leader who will be a passionate public advocate for the changes all stakeholders need to make to deliver real change”.

“As we rebuild Air New Zealand, we need to advance the extensive work already undertaken to become a truly sustainable airline,” he said.

“Kiri’s experience in driving change across the supply chain, engaging customers via tangible measures such as removing plastic bags from stores and diverting food waste from landfill will help our efforts move to a new level.”

Hannifin will start the new role later this year on Dec 5.