ACRP Synthesis 44 – Airport Environmental Management System Development Process

Under a contract with the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), First Environment developed a synthesis report on the current practice of environmental management system (EMS) development at airports in the United States and Canada. The report provides guidance to airports with regard to current EMS practices in the airport industry and answers questions airport managers and personnel responsible for environmental management at airports may have on what their peers are doing. The study also provides general background on EMS processes, survey responses from 19 airports with existing EMSs, and five in-depth case studies illustrating particular examples of airport EMS implementation.

To gather the information synthesized in this report, First Environment performed a literature review to gain insight on previous research and existing information. We used the findings to develop an electronic survey (using SurveyGizmo) which was distributed to airports with EMS experience. Questions focused on the framework used for management systems, similarities and differences in approach and content of airport EMSs, and the outcomes (including benefits). We aggregated the results and selected airports with unique approaches to specific EMS challenges to participate in detailed case studies.

The survey respondents included large, medium, and small airports spread geographically across the U.S. and Canada.

The synthesis determined that EMSs are an effective and useful way for airports to reduce environmental impacts, improve environmental performance, and increase operating efficiency. When reporting on expectations and outcomes, airports reported that the outcomes were well matched to the benefits they were seeking to achieve. We also concluded that some airports are moving beyond a traditional compliance-based approach and addressing sustainability through their EMSs, which in part became the basis of a future synthesis report concerning green initiatives at airports.

The complete synthesis report was published in 2013 and is available online: