As a professional in both Enterprise Risk and Sustainability, COVID-19 has given me nothing short of to think about. It has shown me how transformative a risk event can be on every level, from changes to global policies, industry wide visions to on-the-ground operating procedures. It has shown me how interconnected and interdependent every network in our ecosystem is and perhaps of most importance, it has alerted the world to be more attuned to the major shape shifter that lays ahead, climate change.
In 2009 I completed a Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy from the School of International Policy and Public Affairs at Columbia University. One of my long-term aspirations after completing the program was to significantly contribute to international policy in the field of climate change. I was not exactly clear as to how this path would take shape, but I was certain that climate change would be the most critical issue of our time and that I wanted to be a leader in taking action in this space.
Just under two years ago, an opportunity for a secondment with ACI World to manage the feasibility and recommendation for a long-term carbon goal for the airport sector surfaced. A request for a secondee, Project Manager, for the study and goal was circulated to airports worldwide. As YVR’s Manager of Enterprise Risk and with over a decade of experience working in the field of climate change and sustainability, YVR felt I was well positioned for the role and supported the application.
The task was nothing short of significant. It would be the first global goal of any kind set for airports and for one of the most pressing risks, climate change. I was delighted for this opportunity, not only for my own personal career aspirations, but for its significance to our industry and wellbeing of our planet.
The study kicked-off at the outset of the pandemic and as our industry navigated its way through one of the most devastating economic and health crises of its kind, an opportunity presented itself, to rethink how we prepare for, and manage the risks associated with climate change.
The study was driven by an extensive analytical and evidence-based process and undertook substantial engagement with the ACI regions and airport members. As the Project Manager, I was tasked with providing oversight and contributing to the four major tasks supporting the study – the analytical modeling of global and regional emission baseline and forecast, an extensive stakeholder engagement that included over 58 C-suit interviews and workshops with over 112 airport members, the design of the emission reduction pathways, and the recommendation for the goal. The study took just under a year to complete and demonstrated that it was indeed feasible for airports to reach Net Zero by 2050.
Of most value from a career standpoint, was the negotiation process for setting and reaching global alignment of the goal itself. I learned to navigate complex discussions and decisions with diplomacy. I was able to gain insights on the various political landscapes and regional differences that were driving the multi-dimensional deliberations and I was able to build strong relationships with airport community members across the globe. I’m extremely proud of the work we did at ACI and of the airport sector for its bold commitment towards reaching Net Zero by 2050. It is a testament to the power of partnership that will be required to meet 2050 climate change commitments from all industries across the globe.
While the concept of sustainability has been around for over 30 years, the importance to the resiliency and the future growth of this industry has never been so apparent. As the industry emerges from the effects of COVID-19, the opportunity to build back better by managing growth in a way that balances social, economic, and environmental impacts is of high value. With the existing global health crises and rise in climate risks, the sector’s growth and ability to regain public trust in air travel is contingent upon its efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and its impactful contribution to sustainable development. For airports, the complex network of business partners and stakeholders in the airport business can measure up to that of a miniature city, knowing where to start can be difficult to navigate.
To that end, I was fortunate enough to lead the development of the ACI World’s Sustainability Strategy for Airports Worldwide publication. As part of this publication, the team analyzed over 80 airports across the globe to gain an understanding of global materiality trends across economic, environmental, and social impacts. These key impacts were further defined along with their contribution to the UN SDGs. What was of really great value were the supporting case studies developed by member airports, showcasing best practices and business strategies to address airport specific sustainability issues.
As a succession to this piece, I was also able to work on a white paper with ACI World members and business partners for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting. A guidance document relevant to the growing interest from investors and financial institutions, to considers environmental, social, and governance related factors as part of their investment and lending decisions. With the lack of unified and concise practical guidance around ESG reporting structures, the guidance document aims to reduce gaps in ESG reporting and provide the sector with unity in ESG reporting, to best position airports for future growth and development.
As you can probably see, my secondment at ACI World was nothing short of remarkable. The skills, relationships. and meaningful work produced in those 17 months were exceptional. Working with Juliana Scavuzzi, ACI World’s Senior Director, Sustainability, Environmental Protection and Legal Affairs, as well as the entire environment and economics team will remain one of the most treasured experiences of my career and being part of setting a global climate change goal for airports – no big deal!
The ACI World Secondee Program is a valuable tool for many organizations wishing to manage their talent for succession planning over the long term. The career development of employees is an essential business investment and the program enables ACI to extend employees’ knowledge and skills, contributing to the continued excellence of the industry. Through the program, ACI World continues to cultivate an environment founded on industry best practices and knowledge sharing.