Why Go Green with a Captive Audience? Boston’s Logan International Airport Flies High…

Awaiting my return flight from a trip to Boston, I heard an interesting logan airportannouncement as I was zipping up my boots after security screening.  It turns out that Boston Logan International Airport, New England’s largest transportation center, which serves over 20 million passengers each year and employs 12,000, is one of the nation’s most environmentally advanced transportation hubs.  In 2008, Boston Logan won the Environmental Management Award presented by the Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) in large part as a result of their efforts to improve emissions in and around the airport

Logan’s passenger terminal and general aviation facility were the world’s first to be certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED; it Airport incorporates daylighting, recycled materials, water conservation and a reflective roof into its design.  There are recycling bins throughout its facilities, including containers for bottles and cans at the entrances to all security checkpoints.  Logan was the first airport in the United States to use “warm-mix” additives in asphalt to repave runways, saving fuel and reducing emissions by 20%.  Eco-friendly transportation options such as requesting one of the 400 hybrid cabs that service Logan, downloading free iPhone apps to save on shared cab rides, and utilizing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV), subway service and clean diesel and electric bus lines are recommended prominently on the Massport’s Environment page .

All of these impressive credentials beg the question:  WHY?  Certainly airport passengers are a captive audience; it’s not as if those flying into Boston have a choice NOT to arrive at Logan International.  Where’s the imperative to be competitive, other than measures required for regulatory compliance?  While it is true that there is a veritable alphabet soup of quasi-governmental agencies imposing and monitoring rules on airports and other public transportation entities, some embrace sustainable practices more than others.    The same holds true in the corporate world, where sustainability initiatives are viewed as an afterthought by some and a fully-integrated, highly valued business strategy by others.

In a 2007 presentation to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), Matt Goldman with Weston Solutions, Inc. identified the “business case for improved sustainability” as follows:

• Varies significantly from organization-toorganization

• Increased revenue

• Improved relationship with key stakeholders

• Reduced risk – financial and environmental

• Enhanced access to capital

• Enhanced long-term viability of operations

• Reduced costs for operations

• Improved employee productivity

• Enhanced brand image

• Improved recruitment and retention of employees

The presentation demonstrated a degree of integration of these notions throughout the Massachusetts Port Authority, discussing stakeholder engagement as well as the growing expectation for transparency and reporting.

So if airports and transportation authorities – smack in the middle of energy-intensive infrastructure and services – can manage to integrate such policies, there must be compelling reasons.  Not only must they truly buy in to the environmental and societal benefits to these initiatives, but the cost-benefit analysis must also pencil out well for them.  Surely if these steps make sense at such a macro level, they can be scaled to great benefit in smaller companies.