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Friday, Mar 1, 2024

Clearer Skies Ahead at SAN

ESG: Airport Lauded for Environmental Efforts

San Diego International Airport, the nation’s busiest single-runway airport and second busiest in the world, continues to make strides toward stronger environmental stewardship, increasing its social sustainability efforts while furthering its position as an economic driver in the region.

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, which operates the airport and its 661-acre footprint, just released its 2021-22 Sustainability Report, showcasing results of the airport’s continuing work to push forward and champion environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Brendan Reed
Director of Airport Planning and Environmental Affairs
San Diego Airport Authority

“We take sustainability very seriously,” said Brendan Reed, director of airport planning and environmental affairs at San Diego Airport Authority. “We’ve been doing this report annually since 2012 to really track, understand and communicate all the environmental, social and economic work. It’s an important process for us every year.”

Reed said much of the data and narrative overlaps, and the different types of sustainability efforts often play off each other, and emphasizes that the airport integrates all aspects of sustainability in its practices and plans.

Reed highlighted the $3.4 billion Terminal 1 project, with the first phase – 19 of 30 gates — expected to be largely finished at the end of 2025, with its full completion anticipated by 2027.

The Terminal 1 project began in earnest last November, and not only is it going to update the terminal to a more modern and efficient facility – and bring six new pieces of commissioned public art to the airport – it is also expected to create up to 20,000 construction-related jobs in the community and myriad contracting opportunities for local businesses.

According to the Airport Authority, for the new Terminal 1, the contract value distribution goals are 25% of subcontract value awarded to small businesses enterprises, 80% of subcontract value awarded to local businesses, and 3% of subcontract value awarded to veteran-owned small businesses.

“It’s a massive economic development project for our region,” he said. “The customer experience will be incredible, which is a critical ingredient. It’s going to be a beautiful facility. It’s time for something bigger and better for our community. And once we have a more efficient, beautiful terminal, that will attract new air service to the region.”

Reed said the changes “will be a regional driver for the economy.” Already the airport generates more than $12 billion in annual economic impact for the region and directly provides more than 7,000 jobs.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

The airport has a long history of building a culture that reduces its carbon footprint, including being good water stewards; pursuing energy efficiency and innovation; working toward clean, accessible transportation; moving toward zero waste while protecting biodiversity, building resilience for future climate conditions and addressing aircraft noise.

Late last month, the airport became one of only three North American airports to reach “Level 4+ ‘Transition’,” the highest level of certification under the Airports Council International’s Airport Carbon Accreditation program. The ACA is the only institutionally endorsed, global carbon management certification program for airports.

The airport achieved the certification through a series of programs that increase the use of carbon-free electricity and all-electric vehicles, facilitate carbon-emission reductions by airline and rideshare partners, and enable carbon-offset purchases by passengers, among other efforts.

The 2021-22 Sustainability Report notes that the airport is now using cleaner electricity, running off carbon-free renewable efforts with community choice aggregator San Diego Community Power.

Also in the last year, the Airport Authority’s Quieter Home Program granted sound insulation treatments to more than 200 homes (with more on the way) after it received a total of $26 million in two airport safety and infrastructure grants through the FAA for noise mitigation measures.

But the airport’s sustainability efforts go beyond environmental needs; they also include social growth and economic work.

From the social sustainability aspect, in September 2021, the Airport Authority Board adopted its first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy, and in November of last year launched an all-electric last-mile connection – called the San Diego Flyer – between the airport and the San Diego Old Town Transit Center.

The airport also has instituted programs that protect the local ecosystem and preserve wildlife. It manages and advances biodiversity by maintaining protected habitats, is expanding its pest management program, and plants native and drought-tolerant plants onsite.

Economic Sustainability

As part of its economic sustainability work, in fiscal year 2021-22, the Airport Authority’s procurement department awarded more than $277 million to local businesses, more than $22 million to women-owned businesses, more than $19 million to minority-owned businesses and $11.75 million to small businesses.

The Airport Authority last December also completed the largest single bond sale by a California airport and the fifth largest single airport bond sale in the U.S. at $1.94 billion. (Interest savings compared to the board-approved plan of finance saved almost $400 million, the Airport Authority said.)

Also, the report said that the Airport Authority reduced the cost of contracted services by $437,000 by using its internal staff on the facilities maintenance department team.

Kimberly Becker
President and CEO
San Diego Airport Authority

The Sustainability Report serves as a useful barometer for the airport’s relationship to the environment, the traveling public, its stakeholders, and the greater San Diego community, said Kimberly Becker, Airport Authority president and CEO.

“As the gateway to our region, San Diego International Airport must demonstrate leadership along the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social, economic – with the goal of thoughtful stewardship of the region’s treasures and resources,” Becker said.

“The Airport Authority is the collective engine of our sustainability efforts. This engine enables us to keep pace with a world that is in constant motion and a state of change, and it powers our steadfast commitment to fulfilling our sustainability goals. We keep this engine running efficiently through an unwavering focus on strategy and fiscal prudence, which are hallmarks of the Airport Authority team.”

The report can be accessed at sustain.san.org

San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

CEO: Kimberly Becker
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego International Airport
BUSINESS: Independent agency managing the San Diego International Airport
REVENUE:  $503,836,000 (FY 2021-22, unaudited)
WEBSITE: san.org
CONTACT: 619-400-2400
SOCIAL IMPACT: The New T1 project will create an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 construction-related jobs in the San Diego region.
NOTABLE: One of three North American airports to reach Level 4+ ‘Transition’ rating, highest level of certification under the Airport Council International’s Airport Carbon Accreditation program.


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