Exhibitor Interviews

Ole Wieth Christensen, advisor for aviation and commercial optimization at Ramboll, is dedicated to bringing sustainability to airports

What is Ramboll’s focus?

Ramboll offers clients both specialized services and holistic solutions in building, transport, environment and health, energy, water and management consulting. Ramboll’s mission is to create sustainable societies where people and nature flourish. Hence, our mission is deeply rooted in our Scandinavian heritage. Ramboll is a full-scale global advisory, being able to help the single airport integrate sustainability in its strategy process – but it is also able to help with the subsequent development and implementation of the required infrastructure and processes.

How can airports become more sustainable?

It starts with an in-depth understanding of how sustainable the airport currently is. Airport executives should have a thorough understanding of how their airport is currently doing in terms of sustainability – not only as a standalone business entity, but also as an integrated infrastructure provider as part of the surrounding society at large.

One thing we see as pivotal is stakeholder mapping and engagement in the whole process. Furthermore, airports need to understand the interplay with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and obviously to adapt to these.

Our focus is to help client airports move from good intentions to concrete actions based on global best practices. And not only best practices from other airports, but from all the areas of expertise Ramboll covers in our 40,000 annual advisory projects across the world in various industries.

Is there a way to make sustainability cost-effective for airports?

It might be the immediate perception that sustainability optimization at airports has a negative impact on financial performance. However, this does not have to be the case.

We see that committing to sustainability is becoming the new normal for the airport industry. With stakeholders increasing their demands from airports to deliver value – for the economy, the society and the environment – the cost of doing business as usual will be significantly more damaging than investing in a future for maintaining competitive advantage and a license to operate.

Of course, it will be costly if you decide to make your airport CO2 neutral too quickly; for example, by replacing all petrol vehicles with electric cars overnight. Such short-term tactical actions can sometimes be mistaken for long-term strategic planning.

Are sustainability and performance mutually exclusive?

Competitive advantage is critical for maintaining business viability. Thus, airports need to demonstrate performance in line with the expectations of their investors, users and the communities in which they operate. The successful airports of the future will be able to identify their stakeholders, understand their issues, their consequences and how to respond. This will be key to future airport growth and expansion.

For example, environmental issues (climate change, noise, air quality) or inadequate resources (water, energy) can restrict current operations or future growth and prevent full use of infrastructure.

Thus, it makes good business sense to future-proof airports by deliberately incorporating sustainability continuously along the planning and building stages, rather than adding on sustainable solutions to the project after construction.

Is it worth making airports sustainable if aircraft are still polluting?

The short answer is a definitive YES! Airports and airlines are obviously mutually dependent and interlinked. Hence, it is not an option for airports to just focus on making their own operations CO2 neutral. In the perception of travelers, the airport service is part of the product you buy, when you buy an airline ticket.

When working with airports, we always advise our airport clients to involve and integrate their airline customers in their sustainability work. In this context we start to see strategic partnerships between airlines and airports to – jointly – address airport sustainability. This goes both for development and construction of new terminals, but also in making sure that the infrastructure for sustainable aviation fuels can be delivered cost-effectively to the airlines at the single airport.

Booth: Z3.6140

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