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.
“At Airbus, our ambition includes a strong engagement to reduce our major environmental impacts, taking a lifecycle perspective for sustainable Airbus business and growth. Airbus is committed to protecting the environment and human health, reducing the environmental impact of its activities, products and services and ensuring the effectiveness of its environmental management, also accounting for its compliance obligations.”
Tom Enders, Airbus CEO
To address the CO2 challenge, Airbus, along with airlines, airports, air traffic management and other manufacturers, committed to the ATAG CO2 emission goals in 2008:
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting & Reduction Scheme for Aviation (CORSIA) should also play an important role in achieving CNG 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.
Furthermore, we are investing and focusing our research efforts on developing electric and hybrid-electric propulsion technologies that promise significant environmental benefits, significant quantities of low carbon fuels, optimised ways of operating the aircraft and sustainable ways to offset emissions.
In the last 50 years, the aviation industry has cut fuel burn and CO2 emissions per seat / kilometre 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.
Airbus recognises its role in reducing the global environmental footprint of the sector and the importance of respecting the Paris Agreement by keeping a global temperature rise well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Airbus is contributing to the industry’s target of a 1.5% improvement in fuel efficiency each year between 2009 and 2020 thanks to its latest-generation aircraft and continuous advances in the performance of the entire Airbus fleet around the world.
*CAEP: Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection
**EPNdB: Effective perceived noise in decibels
Whether via the use of sustainable fuels, optimised air traffic management or satellite monitoring, Airbus offers a range of services that support commitments to reductions in emissions and deforestation.
Looking to the future, Airbus is involved in numerous innovative projects with a view to reducing emissions, including the Zephyr unmanned aerial vehicle and E-Fan X demonstrator, as well as the BLADE and Bluecopter demonstrators which are connected to the European Union’s Clean Sky initiative.
Zephyr is a high-altitude pseudo-satellite, the world’s leading solar-electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It will revolutionise humanitarian and environmental missions all over the world. The first unmanned aircraft of its kind to fly in the stratosphere, Zephyr runs exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic. It is able to fly for months at a time, combining the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of a UAV.
As part of the Clean Sky initiative, Airbus’ A340 “BLADE” test demonstrator aircraft has assessed the feasibility of introducing laminar flow wing technology on a large airliner. In September 2017, BLADE made its successful maiden flight and since then has been engaged in testing to explore the wing’s characteristics in flight – which aims to bring a 50% reduction of wing friction and up to 5% lower CO2 emissions.
Airbus’ Bluecopter demonstrator features an eco-friendly helicopter design, which reduces fuel consumption by 13%, thereby affirming the company’s next-generation ability to deliver energy-efficient aircraft. Using one of the company’s light medium twin-engine rotorcraft as the demonstrator platform, Bluecopter incorporates transversal technologies that can be applied across the Airbus product line. Moreover, it is the quietest helicopter in its weight category.
Today, electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are among the most promising technologies for reducing climate change emissions. To this end, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens have formed a partnership which aims at developing a near-term flight demonstrator, known as E-Fan X. This will be a significant step forward in hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial aircraft.
“Over the past years, Airbus Procurement and its Environmental Network have succeeded in integrating environmental criteria into our sourcing activities. Now, our challenge is to influence our suppliers to better manage their own environmental footprint so that our entire supply chain aligns with our rigorous environmental standards, providing us with a cleaner supply chain end-to-end.”
Matthias Gramolla, Head of Procurement Ethics & Compliance
Airbus’ activities cover five main areas to reduce environmental impact across its manufacturing sites and offices around the globe.
Infrastructural improvement projects, management and benchmarking are the focus of activities to minimise energy and CO2; when it comes to raw material and waste, we are reducing our overall use of materials while boosting reuse and recycling; regarding air emissions, we aim to mitigate emissions at source, optimising product use and moving towards low or zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) products; we are also limiting our water consumption and increasing its reuse.
When it comes to our supply chain, we are working on improving visibility on environmental risks, taking into account legal requirements linked to substances and developing partnerships at industry level.
Airbus facilities are built to minimise our environmental impact. As such, we have:
· Globally recognised Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for our US Final Assembly Line
· An environmental rating of “Excellent” per the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) for Airbus Helicopters’ engineering building in Marignane, France
· Recognition for our innovative use of geothermal energy by AFPG (French Association of Geothermal Energy Professionals) for our Headquarters campus in Toulouse, France
· Energy-efficient cooling and power supply systems for Airbus Defence and Space’s Cool Cube Data Centre in southern Germany
As the use of CFRP (Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics) is increasing in aircraft design, opportunities are also being investigated as to how to recover this valuable material and reuse it – within aerospace and other industries – so as to make both environmental and financial savings. Airbus is spearheading new applications such as 3D printing of niche airplane structures using CFRP. Two other projects have seen CFRP waste being reused to build buggy body panels by an Airbus rally racing team as well as within the manufacturing of the A350 XWB wing covers.
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.
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.
Airbus is determined to ensure the highest standards of responsibility throughout its operations, including its supply chain. A comprehensive Supplier Code of Conduct clearly outlines Airbus’ core values with respect to human rights, labour, environmental and anti-corruption practices. Procurement is reinforcing responsibility and sustainability topics and requires that suppliers comply with external regulations, such as REACH, as well as follow the Supplier Code of Conduct.
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 lifecycle specificities.
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, prohibit or restrict the use of substances and are rapidly evolving globally. Airbus is guided by regulations such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act), F-GHG (fluorinated greenhouse gases) and ODS (ozone depleting substances).
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.
For substances subject to a 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.