Sustainability has hit the headlines recently and Istanbul Airport stands with the industry in committing to net-zero carbon emissions in 2050.

However, in truth all aviation stakeholders have been working toward sustainability for over a decade. In fact, sustainability is the right way to do business. More than simply reducing carbon emissions, sustainability should optimize resources, advance diversity and inclusion, and produce favourable outcomes for all parties—including the planet we live on.

Look at how aviation tackled the greatest crisis in its history. It ensured all aspects of air travel, from the departure airport onwards, was safe not only for passengers but also for all employees. That too was part of the commitment to sustainability.

Of course, reducing carbon emissions is the sharpest focus. Though sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) for airlines are critical in this regard, it should not be forgotten how important airport infrastructure is to achieving the 2050 net-zero goal. Without runways, taxiways, and the associated ground equipment and facilities, capacity will be constrained. In addition, if capacity is constrained then aircraft will be delayed, they will fly holding patterns and the benefits of SAF will not be fully realized.

Istanbul Airport was built with this in mind. It is fit-for-purpose, with the capacity to allow airlines and air traffic management to optimize flight profiles and schedules, even during periods of high activity.

Istanbul Airport has also invested in an electric ground fleet and is exploring a number of options for green energy as well as carbon capture technologies. “We are developing plans to use hydrogen both for heating and transportation,” says Firat Emsen, Chief Technical Officer at Istanbul Airport. “And in the meantime, we are purchasing green energy to fulfil our needs.”

Governments must support such efforts. Policies and other initiatives must encourage the use of greener practices rather than hinder them. In particular, innovative solutions should not be delayed through inappropriate legacy regulation.

“Sustainability is not something we can do alone,” says Emsen. “Everybody is affected and everybody needs to be involved in the solutions.”

Nevertheless, as mentioned, sustainability includes so much more than cutting CO2 through new technologies.

At Istanbul Airport, transparency in dealings with the public and inclusion policies are also a vital part of the sustainability strategy. The airport is eager to create value for its local communities, for example. Aside from making them aware of the airport’s plans, it has a deliberate policy in place to emphasize job opportunities for local applicants. This is being extended into attracting future generations through generous training schemes and by furthering the reach into the nearby rural areas. This ensures that economic benefits are also optimized by making local communities part of sustainable development.

Meanwhile, diversity and inclusion continue to be promoted. Clearly, for aviation to continue to grow and to reflect the passengers it serves, it must welcome a diverse workforce and especially attract female workers. The skills and insights these underrepresented sections of the workforce offer must not be ignored.

“Istanbul Airport is taking the lead in how every airport must reposition itself not only in the eyes of local communities and the workforce but also within the industry,” says Emsen. “Airports are critical to sustainable success because if things aren’t right on the ground, aircraft can never take to the skies.

“Social and environmental responsibility is a lifelong commitment,” he concludes. “Sustainability plans are always in development. However, certainly you should never limit them to just carbon emission reduction nor should you forget that maximizing economic opportunities is an essential component. Istanbul Airport is leading the way in achieving these aims.”


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