Heathrow Airport’s revised strategy puts sustainability at the heart of all decision-making. With ambitious expansion plans, it is building a model to be envied – and copied – by other airports around the world.
- In 2016 Heathrow Airport handled a record 75.7 million passengers, a 1% increase on 2015
- Heathrow 2.0 strategy was launched, listing more than 200 targets
- By 2025, it plans to create an ultra-low emissions zone for all vehicles working on the site
- More than 1,600 local apprenticeships and 3,200 local people helped into work during the last ten years.
Already the third busiest airport in the world (and the busiest in Europe), last year Heathrow Airport handled a record 75.7 million passengers, a 1% increase on 2015. The UK Government decision to approve the expansion of Heathrow gives the company that operates and maintains the place a chance to deliver a hub airport the country needs to compete in the world. But there is also a chance to create something we can be proud of too. There is a strong recognition that that is only possible if the growth is sustainable and the way in which the airport is operated is responsible, both now and in the future.
What does sustainable growth look like?
Well, back in February 2017, a new Heathrow 2.0 strategy was launched, listing more than 200 targets across a range of social, environmental and economic issues. It is divided into four key pillars, with goals to help create: a great place to work; a great place to live; a thriving sustainable economy; and a world worth travelling.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye describes the strategy as a “step-change” for the business which “accelerates the shift in our industry towards a sustainable future for aviation”.
“ By focusing on the long-term, and through working together, we can deliver a world-leading economy – innovative, competitive, successful and sustainable. And we can create a future where our business, our people, our communities, our country and our world, can all thrive. ”
Central to Heathrow’s plan is to ensure that the growth in flights and infrastructure resulting from the planned third runway expansion will be carbon-neutral, with emissions offset by the restoration of peatlands in the UK., alongside other carbon-offsetting schemes.
Pioneering an ultra-low emissions zone
Part of the low-carbon effort will focus on airside pollution. By 2025, it plans to create an ultra-low emissions zone for all vehicles working on the site. It already has a fleet of more than 30 electric vehicles and around £400,000 was invested in 2016 to install electric vehicle chargers, with a further £1m funding approved. By 2020, the promise is that all Heathrow-owned cars and small vans will be electric.
There is also a commitment that half of all journeys to Heathrow will be made by public transport. Subsidised local public transport, ongoing car-sharing schemes and direct rail links will continue to support this mission, reducing emissions while flight numbers have increased.
Meanwhile, energy demand management works are ensuring that Heathrow is meeting its 2020 target of using 6.5kWh of electricity per passenger. The installation of 100,000 LED lights across the airport has been crucial. From April 2017, it has gone even further, purchasing its electricity from 100% renewable sources.
Among the company’s flagship goals which seek to address the what it says are the biggest sustainability issues it faces, Heathrow plans to create 10,000 apprenticeships by 2030, investing in the Heathrow Academy, which has already facilitated more than 1,600 local apprenticeships and put 3,200 local people into work during the last ten years.
Creating a more diverse workforce
It also has a goal to better reflect local ethnic and gender diversity at every level of the organisation by 2025.
Achieving all of these goals is not going to be easy. While there is a convincing practical and financial business case for sustainability at Heathrow, embedding sustainability in decision-making can be a challenge in economically regulated industries, the business admits. It hopes to overcome this challenge by including the sustainability strategy into business plans of all functions and seeking to make relevant, cost-effective impact all over the company.
By identifying senior champions throughout the business to own and lead each objective, individuals are embedding these into their own and their teams’ annual performance objectives. For example, Heathrow’s infrastructure procurement director has implemented a sustainability target for the whole department and a group of sustainability champions have been trained to embed sustainability through the specific procurement process.
“Tackling these issues is critical to our licence to operate and grow…we need to make sure that expansion is seen as the model for responsible growth in aviation, and that where we lead, other airports around the world choose to follow,” adds Holland-Kaye.