AIR travel has left an indelible mark on modern life by fostering tourism, businesses, and cultural exchanges on a global scale.
However, it has also raised environmental concerns, as the aviation sector is responsible for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
To address climate change within the aviation sector, the industry has focused on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), technological advancements, and infrastructure optimisation, to name a few.
In 2022, CAPA - Centre for Aviation introduced the CAPA Sustainability for Excellence Awards to recognise industry players prioritising sustainability.
The awards – part of CAPA's regional summit series, are well-regarded in Asia, offering networking opportunities and insights from market experts and aviation executives.
Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) – one of the world's largest airport operators, hosted the event on Nov 2 - 3, highlighting the nation's role in advancing sustainable aviation.
CAPA’s global content director Marco Navarria, said the event, which brings together 350 delegates from across the globe, was designed to be a step in the right direction for the industry.
“CAPA wanted to create something that looked at the data points and gave a specific rating on airlines as to how their performances in terms of sustainability were going,” he said, adding that many awards in the sector were not based on tangible metrics.
The year-long process as Navarria explained, utilises a range of independently sourced data and analysis, as well as an in-depth judging process to shortlist industry players for the accolade.
This year, the award categories have been expanded to include airports and suppliers who are supporting the sustainability cause.
“We really wanted to highlight the entire aviation and travel ecosystem, as it isn't just the airlines that have that responsibility. Airports and suppliers are just as important in limiting their carbon footprint as the airlines,” he stressed.
Epicentre of operations
Aviation sustainability, as MAHB senior general manager for strategy Megat Ardian Wira Mohd Aminuddin points out, also encompasses airports – the artery of aviation operations in the sector where various stakeholders, including passengers, airlines, air traffic control, customs and immigration come together.
This central role allows them to influence and facilitate sustainability initiatives across the entire aviation system.
According to the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) – a global carbon management programme, the airport industry globally accounts for two percent of the air transport’s total emissions.
With 39 airports across Malaysia under its portfolio, MAHB understands the weight of its responsibility in advocating and leading environmental, social and governance (ESG) sustainability efforts.
Leading the way
Over the years, MAHB has made concerted efforts to create long-term value for all their stakeholders via a slew of sustainable initiatives.
In terms of energy efficiency, MAHB has reduced energy intensity per passenger despite a significant increase in passenger volume in 2022.
Megat noted that this was attributed to several initiatives, including the shift away from gas turbines, efficient building system management, and the integration of solar panels amongst many.
“MAHB has also participated in the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) by Airports Council International (ACI) since 2016, with a Level 3 certification, and was assigned a gold rating on the RAM Sustainability Index,” he said of the results from the Malaysian-based provider of sustainability ratings.
Sustainable efforts also form the core of the upcoming KLIA Aeropolis, a sprawling 8,000 acre ( 3,237 ha) mega development.
Slated to be an airport city of the 21st century – KLIA Aeropolis,which encompasses five zones dedicated to aviation, logistics, agro-tourism, business and leisure, will be designed with a focus on sustainable infrastructure and connectivity.
To ensure this, said Megat, MAHB is looking at various strategies, including solar power generation for buildings, electric vehicles and EV infrastructure, as well as providing affordable accommodation to staff within its grounds to reduce carbon footprint.
At the event, five airlines from various regions received the Environment Sustainability award, while Lufthansa Technik's AeroSHARK bagged the innovation award.
The Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), which became the world's first airport to run entirely on solar energy and on-site natural gas, was honored with the newly introduced Environmental Sustainability Airport of the Year award.
For MAHB, the hosting of the CAPA’s event is instrumental in highlighting Malaysia as a regional leader in aviation sustainability.
“We see this event as a platform for industry knowledge expansion and networking,” Megat said, adding that exchanging knowledge and constant collaboration is the way forward to promote a greener future in aviation.
MAHB’s vision of championing connectivity and sustainability globally, as he pointed out, isn’t limited to the environment, but also encompasses connecting businesses and people to provide long lasting value for their stakeholders.
For Navarria, the event bridges the gap between the aviation industry's efforts and consumer awareness, while promoting initiatives and partnerships for a more sustainable future.
“There are so many initiatives that are going on, so many different partners and technology partners that the industry is now working with – and we need to get this message across. So I hope the awards are a step in the right direction,” he added.