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UK Airports Among World's Most Sustainable; Heathrow First to Attain Supplier Standard

Two airports in London, Heathrow and Gatwick, earned multiple certifications to the Carbon Trust Standard for their exceptional environmental performance. Heathrow has become the first airport in the world (and only the fifth organization in the world) to simultaneously hold four certifications, while Gatwick is now one of only a handful of organizations to hold triple certification.

The Carbon Trust Standard is a world-recognized independent certification awarded for progress in environmental performance across two year periods. The Carbon Trust added its Standard for Waste and Standard for Water in 2013 and its supply chain cetrtification in 2015, alongside that for carbon. Those awarded this spring are based on corporate performance between January 2014 through December 2015.

Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in the United Kingdom, was recognized for reducing its carbon emissions by 5 percent, reducing its overall water use by 3.9 percent and 3.1 percent per passenger, and reducing its waste by 3.1 percent per passenger. Perhaps most impressively, Heathrow is the first airport and fifth organization in the world to receive the Standard for Supply Chain.

The airport’s top 20 suppliers account for 76 percent of its total supply chain carbon emissions. To influence these and its other suppliers, the company established the Heathrow Sustainability Partnership, a forum to deliver practical solutions such as the airport’s Energy Code of Practice.

"Heathrow's complexity means the company combines the challenges of several industries, including transportation, retail, property and logistics,” said Darran Messem, the Managing Director of Certification at the Carbon Trust. “The Carbon Trust Standard is an independent benchmark for ongoing environmental management and improvement. To achieve four simultaneous certifications is an impressive accomplishment. Everyone working at the airport who has contributed to achieving these certifications deserves to be congratulated.”

To build on its progress this year, Heathrow released new guidelines for its food and beverage retailers to help reach sustainability targets, and revealed plans for a web portal aimed at consolidating freight loads to decrease the amount of trucks generating emissions around the airport.

Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport, the UK’s second-largest airport, achieved the highest percentage reduction in absolute CO2 emissions in the transportation sector. Compared to the previous two years, Gatwick cut absolute CO2 by 10 percent, and CO2 per passenger by 20 percent.

In addition to the Standard for Carbon, the airport earned the Standard for Water and Standard for Waste certifications. Gatwick cut water use per passenger by 9.1 percent in 2014-15 compared with 2012-13, and ranked in the top 5 percent of UK organizations in a qualitative assessment of water management. The airport also achieved significant improvements in waste recycling, reuse and recovery: Gatwick increased recycling and reuse rates to 49 percent and increased energy recovered from waste to 47 percent in 2015, each up from 40 percent in 2014.

“Gatwick is already working up a road map detailing how we will become the UK’s leading low carbon airport by 2025. We are also examining all other aspects of our footprint – from water through to waste - and will soon announce more exciting plans to reduce our total environmental impact even further,” said Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick.

“These awards are deserved recognition for the whole Gatwick team for their hard work to deliver our ambitious sustainability goals. I would like to congratulate them for their efforts and have full confidence that together we will keep going to become one of the greenest airports in the world.”

Gatwick aims to cut its operational carbon footprint in half by 2020 compared to 1990, and become the UK’s leading low carbon airport by 2025 – the year a new runway could be open. It is currently the most efficient single-runway airport in the world.

This also lends to the airport’s argument that it should be favored for expansion over Heathrow. The UK’s Transport Committee is backing Heathrow’s expansion based on the fact that the larger airport currently caters for 70 percent of the UK’s scheduled long-haul flights, compared to just 11 percent at Gatwick. However, a recent Greenpeace investigation revealed that the addition of a third runway at Heathrow could exacerbate London’s air pollution concerns and cost taxpayers up to £17 billion.

“The Transport Committee’s astonishing statement that the arguments ‘for and against airport expansion have changed little in a quarter of a century’ ignores the significant change within the aviation industry, following the break-up of the BAA monopoly in 2009 and the heightened focus on air quality in the UK which has repeatedly halted Heathrow’s plans in the past,” a Gatwick spokesperson said.

“An end to decades of delay and false-starts can only be achieved by giving the green light for Gatwick expansion. Gatwick is the only scheme which can actually deliver the economic benefits airport expansion would bring without the dramatic and unacceptable impacts on noise and air quality.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “The real, independent evidence continues to point towards Heathrow. The Transport Committee and the Prime Minister’s Airports Commission have confirmed that an expanded Heathrow will be an economic powerhouse driving jobs creation across the UK and fuelling a boom in British exports.”

Heathrow and Gatwick – and other organizations which earn Carbon Trust Standards – must continue to improve their environmental performance to retain the certifications. The Carbon Trust will independently review their performance every two years.

In the 2014 round of the certification, a triple standard was the highest a company could receive. Just 11 businesses earned the honor, including Bentley, Marks & Spencer, and PwC.