Latest sustainability report outlines how fast-growing Qatar Airways is facing up to its environmental challenge
Thu 11 Jan 2018 – The carbon emissions of fast-growing Qatar Airways increased by 21% last year on the back of a 23.8% increase in revenue tonne kilometres (RTKs). However, the Gulf carrier improved its average carbon efficiency (CO2/RTK) by 2.5% over the year, building on a 1.4% improvement achieved the previous year. Carbon emissions from aircraft operations have risen by 45% over the past three years, from 12 million tonnes in the 2014-15 reporting year to 17.5 million tonnes in 2016-17, while carbon efficiency has improved from 0.807 to 0.776 kg CO2/RTK over the period. The latest sustainability report from the Qatar Airways Group – whose interests include cargo handling, aviation and catering services, retail outlets, hotels and the management of Hamad International Airport – outlines its environmental policy and objectives, along with improvements planned for sustainable growth across operations.
The Group has an environmental management system in place to ensure continual improvement in environmental performance and progress towards environmental objectives. Environmental policy, standards and procedures are embedded throughout the organisation, it says, with training provided for all employees. During 2016, an environmental competency matrix developed in partnership with the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment was launched. To help employees engage in environmental management and meet the competency levels required for their role, new environmental training packages, including interactive and engaging e-learning modules, will become mandatory for all staff in the company.
To develop a culture of environmental responsibility, the Group’s workforce is expected to meet five environmental competencies: environmental and sustainability principles; environmental regulation and policy; environmental management systems; resilience, risk and continual improvement; and delivering sustainable solutions. The job description of every employee sets out environmental accountabilities linked to their role.
The Group held its first annual conference in October 2016 on safety, security and the environment for executive leaders, managers and supervisory staff. It included an interactive workshop on environmental sustainability to highlight best practice in cabin waste management, airport energy management, aviation fuel efficiency and illegal wildlife transportation.
With aviation fuel contributing 97.5% of the Group’s carbon footprint, there is an aircraft fuel and emissions programme in place to bring together key areas of the business to collaborate on fuel saving measures. During the 2016-17 reporting year, estimated savings of 52,293 tonnes of aviation fuel and 164,724 tonnes of CO2 were made from weight reduction, route optimisation and aircraft on the ground (for example, reduced engine taxi and limiting the use of APUs) initiatives. Qatar Airways is also retrofitting ‘sharklets’ to its older Airbus A320 aircraft, with three modified during 2016-17 and a further three in progress. The airline reports savings of 493 tonnes of fuel and 1,553 tonnes of CO2 in 2016-17 from the modification.
Qatar Airways is also supporting research into alternative fuels and is investing in an algae biofuel project led by Qatar University’s Centre for Sustainable Development. The first stage of the project involved establishing indoor laboratories and an outdoor demonstration facility to cultivate, harvest and analyse large-scale micro-algae production with the potential to apply biomass to biofuel production. A second stage will identify the optimal strains of algae and fuel types to be produced, and will include pilot studies into large-scale production. It will also incorporate environmental impact assessment and economic feasibility studies.
A key objective of the Group is accreditation to recognised independent certification schemes. Qatar Airways launched a programme in December 2015 to attain the highest level in IATA’s Environmental Assessment (IEnvA) programme, and last month it received IEnvA Stage 2 certification to become the first airline in the Middle East and fifth worldwide to do so.
During the 2016-17 reporting year, Hamad International Airport, which is managed by the Group, became the first airport in the Gulf Cooperation Council to achieve Level 3 of Airports Council International’s carbon accreditation programme.
The airport has set a new target to improve its carbon efficiency per passenger by 30% before 2030. It reports an 11.9% improvement in the metric during the reporting period compared to the previous year. An energy management programme has identified 325 individual initiatives for optimising lighting, heaters, transformers and ventilation and cooling systems.
With one of the lowest levels of annual rainfall in the world, water conservation is of prime importance, especially as total water consumption at the airport increased by 7% last year as a result of increased passenger numbers. However, there was a 9% improvement in efficiency compared to the previous year. The airport’s waste water treatment plant that was commissioned in November 2014 with a capacity to treat over 28,000m3 of waste water per day received 18% more waste water in 2016-17 than the previous year, recovering 91% of the waste water treated. The airport is engaged in a number of initiatives to save water that cover optimising irrigation, retrofitting faucet aerators, saving water during fire pump tests and harvesting condensation.
Last month, experts from Kahramaa’s National Programme for Conservation and Energy Efficiency delivered technical energy and water conservation training to facility management employees from the airline and airport. It was part of a memorandum of understanding to work together on a range of technical initiatives, as well as building staff and community awareness in relation to water conservation, energy efficiency systems and renewable energy.
Wildlife conservation is also an important issue for the Group and in March 2016, Qatar Airways signed the United for Wildlife Transport Industry Declaration at Buckingham Palace in London. As the world’s third largest international air cargo carrier, the airline says it adheres to industry best practice for the welfare of live animals in transportation and has a zero tolerance policy towards the illegal transportation of endangered species through its network.
During the 2016-17 reporting year, it held an interactive awareness raising workshop; carried out enhanced training for cargo staff on detection, upgraded its cargo booking system to record additional information for shipments of wildlife and improve detection of fraudulent documents; and set up a new animal occurrence reporting system to ensure detected offences are recorded. Plans for the coming year include an awareness campaign targeted at customers and employees, comprising an in-flight video, articles in the in-flight magazine, displays for customer information screens and stands at the airport.
“Our environmental performance demonstrates that Qatar Airways takes its leadership role in the international aviation community very seriously,” said Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, commenting on the publication of the Sustainability Report 2016-17. “We lead by example in environmental matters, particularly the management of our carbon emissions and the protection of wildlife and endangered species. As a global airline serving more than 150 destinations on six continents, every corner of the globe is important to us. We are committed to our own sustainability journey as well as to contributing to the aviation industry’s target of carbon-neutral growth from 2020.”