We proactively manage the environmental impact in line with our integrated transformation agenda to support the long-term sustainability of our operations. In the year under review, our environmental impact shrunk significantly owing to the impact of COVID-19 and changed our approach to environmental management in several ways.

Air traffic movements and resource utilisation A drastic slowing of air traffic movements has significantly lessened the magnitude and frequency of potential negative environmental impacts of our operations. This also led to a reduction in ancillary activity with fewer vehicles operating on both the landside (passengers and staff) and airside (ground service equipment). These ultimately led to lower emissions and fewer associated pollution events such as spillages and leaks.

The utilisation of other resources including electricity, water and waste decreased as a result of fewer flights, as well as most of our workforce working remotely. While there were reductions in resource utilisation in absolute terms, efficiencies were much lower, given that certain airport infrastructure requires a baseline of activity, regardless of passenger and staff numbers.

Monitoring initiatives

Decreased operating budgets brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in numerous monitoring initiatives being reduced in frequency or, in some cases, being suspended entirely until the flight numbers increase. This riskadjusted approach was taken owing to a severe decline in expected impacts, which significantly eased the need for monitoring. In this approach, we engaged with the SACAA which allowed our airports to dispense with best-practice monitoring, with legally required monitoring still prioritised.

Noise impacts

Noise impacts, which are directly related to the number of flights supported by our operations, shrunk to the lowest levels in decades. At King Shaka International Airport, for example, noise monitoring terminals indicated a drop of more than 10% of the normal airport-attributed noise impact, when comparing the pandemic period to the previous three years.

Key environmental staff

The voluntary labour cost-reduction strategy resulted in the loss of several key environmental staff at our regional airports. We are in the process of identifying suitable existing staff who will be able to fill vacant roles and ensuring they are adequately upskilled.

Airport carbon accreditation

The ability of the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme to continue its accreditation of airports was severely hampered by the global reduction in air traffic movements and passenger numbers. As a result, the ACI extended all existing certificates for a year to account for the impacts. Considering that our previous reporting period – which is aligned to the financial year – included only three days of the national lockdown, we petitioned for ACI to accept a further application for an additional year’s extension. The extension was granted, resulting in our level 2 accreditation being validated for two years for the following airports: King Shaka International Airport, O.R. Tambo International Airport, Chief David Stuurman (Port Elizabeth) International Airport and Cape Town International Airport.

Although we had started the process towards level 3 accreditation, this requires significant stakeholder engagement. As a result of the impact of lockdowns and remote working on our ability to engage with stakeholders, coupled with furloughing and downscaling activities across our stakeholder base – including airlines, ground handlers and car rental companies – we have decided to postpone this process. Furthermore, based on the long period of projected traffic recovery, ACI is currently reviewing the ACA programme. Once we have gained clarity on level 3 requirements, we will adjust our planning to comply.

Roadmap to carbon neutrality

The drop in capital expenditure owing to the COVID-19 impacts has led to an adjustment in the timing of the projects that make up the Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality. The initial plan projected carbon neutrality for our nine airports (for Scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 2030. While this end goal has not changed, the timing of the projects to support this goal has been amended, with most energyreduction projects being shifted to the 2027–2030 timeframe. Currently, the focus is on renewable energy production at our three largest international airports, coupled with the use of natural gas-powered electricity generation, which has far fewer carbon emissions compared to coal-powered energy production. Cumulatively, these initiatives will lower our carbon emissions in the interim, towards our goal of carbon neutrality. However, further projects in the roadmap are traffic dependent and will be implemented in alignment with the sector’s recovery.

ISO 14001

In FY2020/21, we were unable to perform ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System Standard certification audits as a consequence of the national lockdown. The certification process will resume in FY2021/2022.

Legislation and compliance

In FY2020/21, we maintained legal registers for all nine airports, with all relevant legal updates being directed to the airports. During the year under review, there were no serious fuel spills nor major incidents.

The year under review saw the ongoing development of a new Integrated Compliance Management system that will more effectively integrate the reporting of incidents/non-conformances, including environmental incidents within the business. The system is being developed to include several modules that will interact with this data, including audit information, risk assessment and links to a compliance system. This system will be implemented in FY2021/22.

Key environmental metrics


The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are aimed at improving the livelihood of the world’s population, improving gender and income inequality, and protecting the environment. Globally, it provides a benchmark to map the industry and organisation contributions to sustainable development. We have linked our contribution to development on a global scale to the relevant SDGs and locally to the National Development Plan (NDP).

In South Africa, the NDP strives to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 by addressing specific challenges through 15 chapters, focusing on issues including high levels of unemployment, the quality of education, infrastructure development, inclusive economic development, access to and quality of healthcare, environmental sustainability and corruption.

In line with the NDP and the SDGs, we aim to create sustainable value and minimise our negative impacts on the societies and environments in which we operate.

Key environmental metrics