Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Harnessing technology to become the world’s most sustainable airport
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is one of the world’s busiest airports, moving over 72 million passengers a year. Its ambition is to become the world’s most sustainable airport, and we’ve worked with their teams to discover how technology and data can help turn ambition into reality.
Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands, is a vital transport hub, connecting Europe to the world for people and freight. It also wants to lead the way as a sustainable airport, and amid the growing urgency of the climate crisis, it wants to speed up progress.
The airport’s CIO from 2017-2023, Sjoerd Blüm, had previously seen first-hand our expertise in sustainability and technology as well as managing complex projects with multiple stakeholders. On this occasion, Schiphol needed a way to assess the carbon footprint of its technology and data, an area of increasing concern due to the energy-intensive nature of running IT equipment and data centres. They also sought to use technology and data to gauge their overall environmental footprint and track progress reducing it against a new sustainability roadmap.
Bringing sustainability and technology together
Our approach was to bring sustainability and technology ambitions together, explains PA decarbonisation expert, Mikel Santos: “How can we create value beyond Schiphol’s own business while making sustainability a central focus? We realised that there’s a huge untapped opportunity for technology and data to support sustainability – so we brought the two together in a ‘Twin Transition’ concept.”
As a first step to encourage the adoption of sustainable digitisation, we co-produced the Twin Transition Playbook. The playbook is open source and provides business leaders from all industries with the guidance and tools needed to build a successful Twin Transition strategy in seven bite-size steps.
It was important to define what Schiphol was trying to achieve and why and connecting this to the airport’s overall vision and strategy. Then we looked for ‘hotspots’ where the greatest progress could be made, identifying projects that could be part of the existing strategy, and added others to the future strategy. This enabled Schiphol to understand the interventions needed and it was then important to bring all the teams along on our journey. We ran a ‘roadshow’ to get all the airport’s teams behind the sustainability vision and to understand their role in achieving it. “This also meant getting buy-in from senior stakeholders,” said Santos.
Working as one team, we ran 11 workshops to understand the impact that data and technology initiatives could have on the airport’s sustainability targets. Santos said “within a few weeks, we had developed a strategy and roadmap that brought all the teams’ priorities together with their digital and sustainability visions. We identified the ‘game-changers’ that would have the biggest impact, and then worked out timescales and resources they’d need.”
Through this process, the airport’s teams prioritised lowering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing waste, and improving air quality as their sustainability ambitions.
Planning for a greener future
Aside from assessing the costs and benefits of the initiatives, we enabled the Schiphol team to get sign-off from senior stakeholders. Schiphol were also able to pinpoint the right metrics to fix their baselines and track their performance. This in turn helps Schiphol see where more detailed data is most needed. Together, we also prioritised initiatives in the short, medium, and long term as the team set about shrinking their technology’s footprint and achieving their sustainability goals.
Making technology itself greener means measures like using more cloud-based systems, only running applications when they’re needed, and ensuring data centres run on renewable energy. It also means using carbon-neutral remanufactured hardware from phones to laptops. Meanwhile, using technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital twins to optimise heating and cooling makes operations more sustainable.
Making sustainability the top priority
By starting a business-wide conversation about sustainability, Schiphol has accelerated progress towards becoming more sustainable. Already, initiatives on the Twin Transition roadmap are making a difference, whether it’s changing settings on Wi-Fi access points to use less power or exploring the use of virtual reality instead of petrol-driven vehicles for staff training.
In the future, sustainability will be part of business cases for other initiatives. “This initiative has helped spread awareness of sustainability throughout the airport. For instance, efforts to avoid moving planes between gates between landing and their next flights would typically be seen in terms of efficiency. But in the future, emissions, air quality, and waste are part of decision-making on green-lighting projects.” Mikel Santos, PA decarbonisation expert.