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PEOPLE matters


Actions speak louder than words

Dr Richard Plenty and Terri Morrissey reflect on the importance of taking a broad perspective on sustainability.

We are writing this column from New Zealand where we are on a fact-finding mission on ‘sustainability’. At the same time as we are working, we are enjoying seeing some of the amazing sights and re-connecting with distant family.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, so perhaps it’s not surprising that environmental matters are taken seriously not only by government, local authorities and communities, but by many businesses, including airports.

Take Auckland Airport as an example. It was one of the first organisations to join the ‘Climate Leaders Coalition’ back in 2017. This coalition of businesses now has about 100 members and is committed to take voluntary action on climate change and work towards the transition to a low carbon economy.

Auckland Airport seems to have been an early adopter of sustainability principles, committing to action on four fronts – ‘Place’, ‘Purpose’, ‘People’ and ‘Community’, with targets in each area.

  • Place: valuing the planet and acting on climate change for the future generations
  • Purpose: creating stakeholder value; 100% of procurement aligned with sustainable guidelines
  • People: adding value for employees; creating a representative mix of New Zealand people
  • Community: creating community value in the local and wider Auckland areas.

This broad perspective on sustainability, which is similar to that seen in some European airports, requires a whole systems-wide approach, including action on reducing waste; improving recycling; and conserving and improving the biodiversity of its environment, as well as making and keeping commitments on net zero.

It also means adopting a “green managed growth” policy whereby action on a variety of fronts is taken, including working on innovation and collaboration with other stakeholders (airlines, designers, universities, researchers and bodies such as ACI, ICAO).

Airports can improve the health and wellbeing of employees and passengers through the use of electric vehicles throughout the airport operation and by creating a “green environment” in the airports by planting green walls, trees and encouraging biodiversity.

Investment in the future should consider sustainable design of buildings, operations, and jobs.

Social responsibility measures could involve working with local communities to fund alternative heating source for houses (heat pumps and solar) and encouraging ways of changing attitudes and behaviour of employees toward sustainable behaviour in the workplace.

Actions speak louder than words, and it is important to manage the transition to a sustainable future in a manner that shows results along the way. At the same time, it is sensible in a complex, changing and uncertain environment to ‘look before you leap’ and think things through before acting.

Simple linear project plans are not always well suited to fast changing environments, but an overall roadmap is helpful to align stakeholders. We have been using our own ‘Richmor Model’, which is part of a framework we have developed to deal with uncertainty, as a basis for this. The four steps are:

  1. Reflect – Understand why-the context and big picture; what we want to achieve; who is involved
  2. Strategise – Develop strategic options with stakeholders of how to achieve a sustainable future
  3. Exploure – Look in-depth at the options for action; explore the implications; weigh up the choices
  4. ACT – Build the roadmap; develop action plans and milestones; implement.

Sustainability is about the future. A recent video from young airport and aviation personnel highlights the need to act now to address the sustainability of the aviation travel business. They state that the technologies are already there and continue to evolve and call on the ICAO General

Assembly to take urgent action to address climate change and create the sustainable travel industry of the future. It is time to listen to their voices and put urgency behind the sustainability journey. And time for us to continue with our post COVID travels, pleased we can meet again with family, friends and colleagues.


Dick Benschop is stepping down as president director and CEO of the Royal Schiphol Group, although he will remain in the hot seat until the Amsterdam Schiphol operator finds his successor.

The Board of Directors of Dalaman International Airport has appointed Yiğit Laçin as the Turkish gateway’s new chief executive officer. Irish airport operator, daa, has made group financial officer, Catherine Gubbins, its interim CEO while the process to recruit a permanent replacement for former boss, Dalton Philips, continues.

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