Sustainability: The Future of Airports

Airports have become essential in modern society for the provision of experiential consumption, facilitation of tourism, business/work and are a key driver of economic development globally. Having attended the recent Adapt or Die Retail and Commercial Conference hosted by Isavia and ACI, it’s apparent that the airport industry is striving to adapt (and capitalise) on the consistent rise in expectation and demand on the industry. Passenger numbers have increased at an average of 6.6% per year since 2010 and the industry is striving (and succeeding) in capacity enhancement whilst maintaining operational excellence, experience, and, sustainability.

We have seen an increase in the volume of new roles within sustainability teams throughout the airport and property sectors in recent years. The enhanced focus on greener work environments, facilities and wider community initiatives are supporting business performance, efficiency, economic development and the reputation of the sector. The key areas of focus and success are as follows;

  • The utilisation of renewable energy – wind, geothermal and solar.
  • Reduced energy consumption – technology and “smart” airport initiatives.
  • Reduced noise pollution – quieter aircraft, the adaptation of flight routes and times, property investment in the local vicinity.
  • Zero waste to landfill – with The Carbon Trust established framework, Gatwick became the first airport achieving the accreditation in 2018.
  • Economic development – providing local businesses with opportunities to thrive and build stronger futures.
  • Reduced carbon emissions – ‘cleaner’ aircraft technology, carbon offsetting and reusable fuels.
  • ‘Clean’ ground transportation – mobility utilising renewable energy and technologically advanced vehicles.

Notable achievements to date include:

  • Gatwick Airport’s ‘Decade of Change’: committing to improvements in carbon, waste and noise pollution amongst others.
  • Heathrow 2.0: sustainability and community-led initiative to support customers, residents, passengers and economies to thrive.
  • London Luton Airport: Reducing Our Carbon Footprint.
  • Edinburgh Airport Noise Insulation Scheme – provides assistance with free double glazing to your property if you live within the 63 dB and greater noise contours of the airport.

A common hurdle airports face is the implementation of plans in partnership with customers and their individual business strategies, where objectives and values aren’t always aligned. Whether an airport can overcome these challenges is generally down to one thing, having the right people. If airports recruit and develop the best talent, and they are given the opportunity to play to their strengths within a sustainability led culture, stakeholder partnerships and collaborative influence will be achieved.

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