Sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) values are important to any company – more so in the aviation industry. But it is acting on these values and making considerable, tangible changes that is most important, according to a recent airport panel at ACI Europe.
Mike Boonen of KPMG Belgium, moderator of a panel on airports and sustainability, set the scene, bringing 20 years of experience with CSR values to the panel. KPMG highlighted the main consideration in the panel: measurable actions taken as opposed to sustainability promotion in theory.
KPMG, as Boonen highlighted, has been advising on sustainability performance since September 2015, “allowing more transparency on how companies are working towards ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all”.
KPMG considers the “true value” of an airport and looks at several metrics including wellbeing of travel, education, direct and indirect jobs, taxes and infrastructure development.
Quito Airport in Venuzuela was the first airport to demonstrate CSR values being acted on, with Andrew O’Brian, president and CEO of the airport speaking on its partnership with the Inter-Development Bank.
There is an ongoing ‘shared value project’ at the airport that involves the local community at large, promotes the local economy and local partners work together on using local cultivated produce and on waste management. The program also sees the airport identify high-potential future employees through social outreach programs and trains them at the airport.
Geneva Airport CEO, Andre Schneider discussed how the airport near the border of France has invested in solar panels to focus on solar energy and how allowed capacity to be utilised at a sustainable level because of a commitment to environmental obligations.
The airport “has a lot of neighbors”, according to the CEO, meaning that the only option is moving towards sustainability. Fuel is another focus for the airport, with a partnership with NESTE to supply local sustainable fuel that compromises 1% of annual jet fuel consumption.
Athens Airport’s CEO, Yiannis Paraschis, then spoke on something different: a cultural heritage management program. 17 archaeological excavations have now been completed by the airport with the objects excavated now on display at the airport’s terminal. Promotion of local culture is very important, Paraschis stated. The Athens Airport CEO stated “responsibility and resilience” form the framework of sustainability.
It was then asked by the audience how the aforementioned projects could be seen as “authentic” and not an example of greenwashing: the use of spin to demonstrate how a company or organisation is ethically and environmentally friendly.
Geneva Airport delegated to answer first, offering the knowledge that there should be “transparency on facts and figures” and it should be discussed how “projects are related to people and how projects are integrated into the overall strategy of the airports”.
Athens Airport conceded “it is not easy” to demonstrate authenticity but said that measuring goals against targets is a good judge and delivering on a framework already set forth.