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Minimising environmental impact

Minimising environmental impact

Environmental values form a key part of our strategy. We use the very latest technologies in our efforts to maximise the benefits of our products and services, while minimising the environmental impact of their manufacturing and operation. 

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Responsible consumption and production

Eco-efficiency and innovation act as drivers to reduce our environmental footprint, meet current and future environmental challenges and achieve sustainable economic growth and development. 

Climate action

We are constantly improving the environmental performance of our products, while our satellites play a key role in monitoring and understanding climate change.

Aviation roadmap

In the last 50 years, the aviation industry has cut fuel burn and CO2 emissions per seat / kilometer by more than 80%, NOx emissions by 90% and noise by 75%. While this improvement is extremely impressive, societal expectations and the predicted high traffic growth rate are placing increasing demands on all aviation stakeholders to continually reduce its impact on health and climate change. 

Environmental principles

Airbus has committed to the UN Global Compact principles, including the following three environmental principles:

  • The implementation of a precautionary and effective programme to address environmental issues
  • Initiatives that demonstrate the acknowledgement of environmental responsibility
  • The promotion of environmentally sustainable technologies

On a global industry level, Airbus, along with airlines, airports, air traffic management and other manufacturers, committed in 2008 to the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) CO2 emission goals:

  • Improve fleet fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year between now and 2020;
  • Stabilise : from 2020, net carbon emissions from aviation will be capped through carbon neutral growth (CNG)
  • By 2050, net aviation carbon emissions will be half of what they were in 2005. 

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for Aviation (CORSIA) will also play an important role in achieving Carbon Neutral Growth from 2020.

At a European level, we are also guided by the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE)'s long-term aim to reduce air transport CO2 emissions by up to 75% by 2050.

We also continue to proactively support emissions reduction once the aircraft goes into service. This could be through fuel efficiency services, ground operations, air traffic management optimization and sustainable fuel flights.

Product innovation for improved environmental performance

Reaching the ambitious 2050 target will require disruptive approaches in technology, which we are actively pursuing.

By delivering aircraft such as the A350 XWB, 25% more efficient than the previous generation aircraft, or pursuing rotary-wing innovation programmes such as Bluecopter, the average global fleet fuel efficiency per annum has been more than 2% over the last 5 years. 

We have made rapid progress on electric propulsion with the E-Fan, a fully electric aircraft, and Airbus will build on its findings to further unlock the potential of hybrid-electric propulsion by developing the E-Fan X near-term flight demonstrator through a partnership with Rolls-Royce and Siemens.

Our research and development also focuses on low-carbon fuels, noise reduction, innovative ways of operating the aircraft and sustainable ways to offset emissions. 

Airbus Sustainable Aviation Programme

Airbus established the Sustainable Aviation Engagement Programme in 2015 to pilot and share with operators environmental best practices and performance improvements. Several airlines now participate, enabling them to harness the full potential of our aircraft, together with optimised operations, to minimise fuel burn and noise emissions

Sustainable industry

Our environmental policy provides strategic direction and common guidance on the commitments Airbus has taken to protect the environment and combat global warming.

Underpinning our approach is the maintenance of a robust ISO 14001 certified environmental management system (EMS), covering the company’s operations. ISO 14001 is an internationally recognised standard of EMS efficiency for businesses and organisations.

Coordinating the Airbus approach to global environmental industrial footprint reduction is our Blue5 organisation. Launched in 2011, its aim is to progressively deploy a coordinated programme according to four key areas: energy, waste, water and volatile organic compounds.

Across our industrial facilities, key reductions have already been achieved in each of these areas.

 

Around 85% of Airbus' employees are operating under the framework of ISO 14001.

Environmental Performance
Airbus and Substances Regulation

Airbus is committed to working with its suppliers to deliver products in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, while maintaining its quality, performance and reliability standards, accounting for stringent airworthiness and safety requirements. Health and safety and environmental compliance of its plants and activities are an Airbus priority. Airbus is working within a number of aerospace industry associations to promote best practices for implementation of environmental requirements, considering sector safety and life cycle specificities. 

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Substances regulation

Substances are subject to regulatory measures based on their classification or size. Different laws and regulations at regional (for example, European) and national (various countries) level govern the manufacture, placing on the market, storage, transportation, handling, use, transfer (including import, export) and disposal of substances and products containing them. Laws and regulations aimed at improving the protection of human health and the environment (such as REACH1, TSCA2, F-GHG3, ODS4) prohibit or restrict the use of substances and are rapidly evolving globally.

1 - REACH: Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Autorisation and Restriction of Chemicals
2 - TSCA: Toxic Substance Control Act, Refer to 15 U.S.C. §2601 et seq.
3 - F-GHG: Regulation (EU) No 517/2014 of 16 April 2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases
4 - ODS: EU Regulations (Regulation (EC) No 1005/2009 of 16 September 2009  and its amendments) implemented to conform to the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances

 

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Airbus and Substances management

Based on information received from its suppliers, Airbus identifies, declares and tracks regulated substances used to meet stringent technical performance, safety and airworthiness requirements for its products. Airbus is involved in research for potential replacement technologies that reduce concerns for human health and the environment as alternatives to use of such substances; these are implemented when it can be demonstrated that they are viable.

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REACH

For substances subject to ban under REACH, when suitable alternatives are not available (for example, for certain chromates), authorisation by the European authorities is required for their continued use. This is subject to compliance with strict conditions, including workplace safety and environmental requirements that must be maintained and monitored. Any authorisation that may be granted by the European Commission is time-limited so authorisation is viewed as only a temporary measure for management of such substances.

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Environmental performance improvements across our sites

Energy

We use numerous methods to lower our energy consumption, including highly efficient LED lighting, improved insulation and timers and motion sensors to operate lighting and equipment only when required. Displaying energy usage data in manufacturing areas is helping to raise energy awareness. 

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CO2 emissions

From a fleet of electric cars at our Toulouse site, to biomass boilers using wood from local sustainable forests, we are finding more ways to limit our CO2 output. We have installed tens of thousands of photovoltaic panels across several sites, as well as combined heat and power systems which offer an efficient way of generating heat and electricity with low emissions. Innovative solar cooling also offers a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional air-conditioning.

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Waste

A new system has been introduced to reduce paper consumption across Airbus in France, while recycling areas at  Defence and Space facilities in Germany promote zero waste. In Toulouse, thousands of tonnes of liquid effluent are processed each year, allowing the water separated to be poured back into the rainwater network. Excessive sealant use has been cut and material recovery from rivet and drill waste is helping fund a charity in Spain.  

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Water

Instead of using drinking water for industrial and sanitary needs, Airbus in Hamburg now treats river water, resulting in significant savings. In Spain, waterless urinals will be installed at all sites and air-cooled pumps are replacing water-cooled versions. Improved irrigation and revamped landscaping is helping to conserve water usage in Texas.

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Volatile organic compounds

Airbus has been working to reduce its use of volatile organic compounds (VOC) for some time. Pre-impregnated wipes have replaced solvents to clean painting equipment and new waterborne paints use low amounts of VOC. In Hamburg, a new procedure to paint the A380 is in operation, with electrostatic guns keeping paint mist to a minimum, while exhaust air is cleaned and treated – ensuring particles of paint can be disposed of separately.

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Earth Observation services

Lake Kyoga, Uganda SPOT 5 Satellite Imagery

Our satellite technology is used to monitor changes in the environment, enabling governments and other agencies to monitor and understand more about climate change and the environment.

Copernicus, for example, is the programme for the establishment of a European capacity for Earth observation and addresses six specific topics: oceans, atmosphere, climate change, land, security and emergency management. Airbus plays a crucial role in constructing the Sentinel satellites and their instruments.

Pléiades and SPOT Earth observation satellites provide high-value geospatial information that helps quantify the effects of climate change, as well as delivering important data in fields such as agriculture, deforestation and environment monitoring.

Read the story: Fighting global warming from space

Our Geo-Information services in action

Starling: sustainable forest management

More and more companies are committing to cutting deforestation from their supply chains. But defining deforestation can be complicated. By using Airbus’ SPOT constellation of satellites and image processing service, Starling helps companies to precisely monitor their practices and compliance in forest conservation.      

Learn how Starling earth observation technology is helping to reduce deforestation

WorldDEM Urban Footprint: mapping human settlements

A reliable global reference layer about the presence of human settlements and urban structures is the basis for monitoring environmental and urban development, crucial for decision-making in global change, climate change, natural disasters, geo-risks, political conflicts and access to resources, among other things.

FARMSTAR: precision agriculture

FARMSTAR allows farming professionals to know exactly what their crops need and when, and achieve savings in the amounts of fertiliser and pesticides used – thus reducing harmful nitrous oxide emissions. By combining satellite images from our constellation with strong agronomical expertise, FARMSTAR supplies a complete range of advice for crops, enabling modulation of agricultural inputs. 

How FARMSTAR is helping farmers achieve a more sustainable production of crops

Visit Airbus Geo-Information Services website

Responsibility & Sustainability

Our approach for responsible business

Minimising environmental impact

Operating responsibly

Innovating for sustainable solutions

Contributing to a safer and more prosperous world

Fostering quality education and inclusion

Reporting and performance data

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