National Academies Press: OpenBook

Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans (2015)

Chapter: Chapter Three - Developing Sustainability Plans

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Developing Sustainability Plans ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Developing Sustainability Plans ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Developing Sustainability Plans ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Developing Sustainability Plans ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Developing Sustainability Plans ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22111.
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9 DEFINITIONS Defining sustainability is useful because a definition provides a focus for sustainability planning and consensus-based goals. Because sustainability programs at smaller airports often begin with infor- mal, ad hoc initiatives, the definition and understanding of sustainability and its elements may differ significantly. As stated, most definitions of sustainability mention three core performance areas— social, economic, and environmental—and the airport community has added operations as a fourth component. The Sustainable Aviation Resource Guide (2009) states, “When embarking on a sustain- ability program, it is critical for each airport to determine its specific definition of sustainability,” and the surveyed airports appeared to follow that advice. In addition to the widely accepted definitions of sustainability, the surveyed airports developed their own context-specific mission statements for sustainability. A selection of illustrative mission statements are presented here, with more definitions of sustainability and mission statements provided in Appendix A: 1. At the crossroads of innovation and sustainability, to strive to conserve natural resources, operate efficiently, enhance passenger experience, and serve as a vital asset to [the] region and beyond. 2. Doing what makes sense for the environment. 3. Provide the region [with] convenient commercial and general aviation access to the national air transportation system, operate the airport in a safe, efficient, sustainable, and fiscally responsible manner, and develop the airport to meet future needs. 4. Sustainability refers to the mutually beneficial, life-supporting, and perpetual balance among economic, social, and environmental considerations and goals. It is a “basket” concept similar to justice or health that incorporates many ideas and approaches. 5. Sustainability principles: Minimize negative environmental impacts. Integrate sustainable practices into daily operations. Work with partners throughout the airport system. Implement sustainable design/construction practices. Maximize life of our assets. Engage with local community in positive manner. Provide a positive and safe working environment. Report on progress in meeting sustainability principles. SUSTAINABILITY PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS Sustainability planning is a single component of a sustainability program. Planning is useful as a way to convene discussions on the topic and connect stakeholders across the airport enterprise. In addition, plans are an effective way to achieve consensus on airportwide goals and performance targets. A sustainability plan is not an end point but rather an effective starting point and a foundation for con- tinuous improvement. Other common airport sustainability elements include some or all of the fol- lowing: sustainable design and construction guidance, sustainability mission statement, individual sustainability actions, performance tracking mechanisms, management system(s), and annual sustain- ability reporting. Airports can implement sustainability actions on an ad hoc basis without a formal plan. However, at a minimum, adopting a formal sustainability plan is useful for setting priorities for actions, and airports participating in this synthesis project agreed that a formal plan is a desired part of a sustainability program. chapter three DEvELOPING SUSTAINABILITY PLANS

10 Airport sustainability programs also benefit from performance management and continuous improvement in economic, social, operational, and environmental activities (Figure 6). Through a lens of continuous improvement, airport sustainability follows a repeating and evolving cycle. An airport first commits to a sustainability policy or mission, then uses its policy as a basis for estab- lishing a plan, which sets objectives and targets for improving performance. The next step is imple- mentation. After that, an airport evaluates its performance to see whether the objectives and targets have been achieved. If targets have not been reached, corrective action is taken. The results of this evaluation are then reviewed to evaluate sustainability performance. The airport revisits sustain- ability policy and goals and afterward sets new targets in a revised plan that is subsequently imple- mented. The cycle repeats, and continuous improvement evolves. This approach is often referred to as the “plan-do-check-act-refine” cycle. The steps, which have been adapted from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001, are further detailed here: • Plan—Based on a sustainability policy or mission, gain a comprehensive understanding of what an airport is trying to manage, including the potential risks and opportunities, and develop a systematic way to evaluate and prioritize sustainability actions. Plans can include implementa- tion on ongoing management approaches. • Do—Implement the plan and improve your airport’s ability to ensure selected actions are actu- ally implemented. • Check—Monitor key parameters and metrics to gauge performance, then recalibrate and adjust, ensuring management processes are meeting their intended goals. • Act—Based on evaluation of monitoring results, review sustainability performance results and lessons learned to refine the plan and adjust implementation as necessary. • Refine—Adjust the plan based on information gathered during the check and act steps. Although the surveyed airports did not make specific reference to international sustainability frame- works and standards, there are several that are worth mentioning and may be considered or consulted while planning or implementing a sustainability program. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides advice and reporting guidelines for sustainability programs in general, and in 2011 GRI issued the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines & Airport Operators Sector Supplement, which pre- sents information pertaining to airports. The ISO develops voluntary standards and has published several standards relating to sustainability, such as ISO 14001 (environmental management), ISO 26000 (social responsibility), ISO 50001 (energy management), ISO 20121 (sustainable events), and ISO 15392 and the ISO 21000 series (sustainability in building construction). Other sustainability frameworks that have achieved global acceptance are the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), which focuses on greenhouse gases, and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), which is similar to GRI in providing guidance for managing and reporting on the three sustainability pillars of finance, environment, and society. Survey findings suggest most respondents are still in the process of formulating sustainability plans. Only six of 21 airports that answered the “sustainability level” question have completed a formal plan, and only two have fully implemented the plan (see Figure 7). Full implementation of a sustainability plan or program can mean different things to different airports, but at a minimum, a fully implemented plan includes adoption of clear, sustainability-focused goals that are part of a for- mally adopted plan; implementation of those goals; and a means to track performance against those goals to encourage continuous improvement. Given that many airports are still in the early stages of building a sustainability program, this synthesis focuses on the sustainability planning process and current initiatives, rather than on measurable outcomes. There is a common perception that resource constraints limit the potential scope of viable airport sustainability activities. Although there is a feeling among smaller airports that they are more ham- pered by lack of resources than are their larger counterparts, full-time employees dedicated to single assignments are rare for many airports of all sizes. Airport employees perform multiple tasks within the scope of a broad set of responsibilities; an airport director may operate the snowplow on the same day that he or she negotiates a multiyear, multimillion dollar contract. FIGURE 6 Continuous improvement (figure adapted from ISO 14001).

11 BUILDING THE TEAM For airports that committed to developing and implementing a formal sustainability plan, the design resulted from a collaborative team effort with input from the airport, tenants, sustainability consultants, and FAA. Airports providing information for the case examples agreed that active involvement of stakeholders in the design and implementation of the sustainability program was critical to its suc- cess for several reasons. Most importantly, stakeholders such as tenants, employees, and the local community were more willing to embrace the program if they actually helped develop it. Second, no single person or department has a monopoly on good ideas, and soliciting suggestions from a variety of sources helps create a more robust and well-informed product. Indeed, the case examples indicate that numerous staff and various departments can be involved in developing and improving sustainability. The sustainability plans of 18 respondents resulted from a collaboration of airport personnel and external sustainability experts, whereas 12 airports worked with FAA, and ten collaborated with resident tenants. Nine airports established an advisory committee with representatives from each of the key stakeholder groups. Those airports emphasized the value of establishing the committee at an early stage of program development and encouraged frequent meetings to solicit input and feedback and communicate planning and progress. Seven survey respondents and several airports interviewed for this synthesis, such as Kent State and Ithaca, highly recommended taking advantage of the pres- ence of local colleges and universities to obtain access to research, educate students about aviation, and build good relationships with the community (see Figure 8). RESOURCES Airport respondents consulted a wide range of resources for guidance to draft the sustainability plan. Because only five of the surveyed airports (those owned and operated by the city of Phoenix, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Kent State University) have in-house sustainability or environmental experts, outside sources contributed much of the information that supported program implementation. Respondents used ACRP publications most often, with 19 respondents citing those pub- lications as a resource. Conference presentations are the next most consulted resource, with 16 airport respondents using presentations from conferences organized by ACI-NA, AAAE, and NASAO. Airports indicated that they gathered much information and many helpful ideas while talking with colleagues at these conferences. One interviewed airport stated that, for smaller airports, regional conferences could sometimes be more valuable than attending large, national conferences. Regional conferences require lower travel costs and are more likely to accommodate presenters from medium and small airports that share similar issues and challenges. The FAA Sustainability Planning Lessons Learned was cited by FIGURE 7 Sustainability level (number of airports in study).

12 14 respondents (FAA 2012). The Sustainable Aviation Guidance Alliance (SAGA 2009) database also proved popular and was cited by 12 respondents as being helpful (see Figure 9). Airports without a formal plan depended more heavily on conference materials and publications than did airports with a formal program. This difference may be related to smaller staff sizes with less specialization. Several of the airports without formal programs used SAGA tools and in-house experts. One airport without a formal program also relied on the local utility provider. Respondents providing additional comments all stated that they used outside consultants and the consultants’ information as resources. MANAGING THE PROCESS Sustainability programs require active management for successful implementation, and support from top management is critical to providing resources and building morale. Surveyed airports deploy a range of management methods, demonstrating that no one approach fits all organizational cultures. FIGURE 8 Groups contributing to sustainability plan (number of airports in study; multiple responses possible). FIGURE 9 Sustainability resources consulted (number of airports in study; multiple responses possible).

13 Fourteen of the respondents managed the sustainability process through developing and tracking baseline performance indicators, and 12 used a defined list of sustainability categories and a priori- tized list of actions. Eleven used a process to track implementation. Eight tracked performance and performance against goals. A lesser number defined stakeholder roles, reported regularly on prog- ress, and linked sustainability with environmental compliance. Having the right data makes managing easier, and respondent airports used a variety of methods collect data to monitor sustainability program progress and inform decision making. No one method was clearly preferred by the respondents, although monthly reporting on the volume or weight of waste garnered more votes (13 airports) than did any other tracking method, with utility submetering close behind (11 airports). Other tracking methods included establishing a financial record on the return on investment for sustainability initiatives (nine airports) and use of surveys of the community (eight airports), employees (six airports), and tenants (five airports). The survey results revealed that most of the smaller airports do not currently use formal tracking programs such as GRI indicators, the Airport Carbon Accreditation Program, the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, or LEED for Existing Build- ings Operations & Maintenance. Several respondents offered sustainability management practices that were not included in the survey, such as reporting quarterly on new initiatives, using software provided by the utility, adopting a storm water pollution prevention plan, and developing a checklist for sustainable construction practices. For the most part, small airports have airport personnel who track sustainability performance by means of spreadsheets. Spreadsheet functions and layout are customized and determined by each airport. Airports such as Outagamie, which use this method to track energy, water, and waste infor- mation, uniformly endorsed it, stating that the time invested is well worth the benefits. STEPS TO DEvELOPING A SUSTAINABILITY PLAN The surveys and interviews produced a consensus on suggested steps for developing a sustain- ability plan: • Obtain support from either top management or the airport owner/authority • Inform and engage stakeholders, including employees, tenants, and the community • Determine priority items, starting with low hanging fruit (quick wins) • Set a budget and seek funding • Set clear and achievable goals • Draft a plan and communicate it to stakeholders • Track performance, perhaps by entering data into a spreadsheet • Review performance and revise goals if necessary • Communicate plan progress to stakeholders • Manage sustainability as an ongoing process.

Next: Chapter Four - Drivers, Aids, and Barriers to Sustainability Programs »
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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 66: Lessons Learned from Airport Sustainability Plans explores sustainability initiatives at smaller U.S. airports. The synthesis presents an analysis of survey responses and provides information gained from the telephone interviews to help inform airport leadership and employees who are considering, developing, or implementing sustainability plans.

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