Environment & Sustainability More value, less environmental impact

Airbus incorporates social and environmental values in its core strategy and operations. This commitment not only improves the management of business risks and opportunities, it also enhances long-term social and environmental sustainability.

Towards a sustainable future

Eco-efficiency at Airbus aims at maximising the benefits of our products and services, while minimising the environmental impact of their manufacturing and operation. Airbus brings together the very latest technologies in the development stage of its products or services as well as in new versions of existing products.

Across the company's industrial facilities, key reductions have been achieved in energy and water consumption, waste production, VOC (volatile organic compounds) and CO2 emissions. Airbus also continues to develop collaboration across the supply chain to address environmental challenges and regulations.

Airbus supports joint initiatives throughout the aerospace and defence industries to improve overall environmental performance in the most consistent and efficient manner.

The company's environmental policy directs the way in which it embeds eco-efficiency within product development, industrial operations and services.

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Certifying our commitment

Social and environmental value is part of Airbus’ core strategy

Dedicated environmental management

Airbus’ commitment in this sphere improves the management of business risks and opportunities, as well as enhancing long-term social and environmental sustainability. An environmental policy provides strategic directions and common guidance on commitments Airbus has taken for the environment.

Around 85%

of Airbus' employees are operating under the framework of ISO 14001

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.

Airbus CSR reporting

Environmental reporting is embedded across Airbus, measuring progress and complying with reporting obligations. Since 2010, consolidated data has been externally audited by Ernst &Young. Find out more about our CSR reporting and data.

How we make a difference

Airbus’ drive to improve eco-efficiency is reflected in concrete progress across the Divisions and their industrial facilities. The goal is to optimise eco-efficiency while maximising added value and minimising our environmental footprint.

Designed for the environment

Reducing the environmental impact of products and services differentiates products, improves efficiency and ensures compliance with regulations.

All of Airbus’ new technologies are reviewed at each of their maturity stages (technology readiness levels) to see if their environmental impact can be reduced, whether in terms of waste, energy or volatile organic compounds. In time, this approach will spread to Airbus Helicopters and Airbus Defence and Space.

With the very latest engines and large wingtip devices (Sharklets), the A320neo is the most environmentally-friendly single-aisle aircraft.

Management of hazardous substances

In order to continuously improve protection for its employees, as well as customers and final consumers, Airbus monitors and, where necessary and achievable, finds suitable replacement materials for hazardous substances from its internal processes and outsourced equipment. This takes into account all applicable regulations impacting Group operations, such as the European Union REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) guidelines.

This regulation aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances.

Industrial environmental footprint

Airbus’s commitment to improving its eco-efficiency is reflected in concrete progress across the Divisions and their industrial facilities.

In addition to specific energy-saving projects such as wood boilers in France, and combined heat and power units in Germany, there is a drive to introduce common solutions across Airbus sites. Some far-reaching initiatives have emerged, such as a common lighting solution for the top 22 sites in Europe.

Airbus is running the Blue5 programme, which supports the implementation of reduction projects for energy, CO2, water, waste, and VOC, and covers all Airbus sites and functions in Europe.

A model of sustainability: 'Wings Campus', the headquarters of Airbus

Airbus manufacturing locations around the world employ a mixture of construction and power solutions to reduce energy consumption, from photovoltaic cells to biomass boilers and rain harvesters.

The company's headquarters in Toulouse – the Wings Campus inaugurated on 28 June 2016 – meet the most modern environmental standards set by the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM - 'Very good' rating certification), a global reference for sustainable construction.

The buildings are heated and air-conditioned by geothermal systems, which are the largest installation of this kind in Europe.


Smart buildings worldwide

The extension to the Airbus facilities at Broughton, Wales, features biomass and gas-fired boilers, photovoltaic panels, solar water heaters and rain harvesters.

Other successful initiatives looked at the location of sites to find the most appropriate solutions for saving both emissions and costs. This was the case for Airbus Helicopters’ facility in Marignane, southern France, where 12,000 photovoltaic panels were installed over a surface area of 16,000 square metres. This has helped produce 2.95 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, which is equivalent to a drop of 360 tonnes of CO2 annually.

The Airbus site in Toulouse also makes use of photovoltaic cells, while a new biomass boiler, which will cut total carbon emissions by approximately 12,000 tonnes, burns woodchips sourced from nearby forests rather than consuming gas.

A similar facility, based on the Toulouse site’s experience, is set to follow suit at Airbus Defence and Space’s Les Mureaux location. It aims to cover 85% of annual heating requirements via this method, while reducing the site's carbon footprint by about 50%.

Another site with remarkable environmental performance is the North Factory, the extension to the Airbus facilities at Broughton, Wales, where the wings for the A350 XWB are manufactured. Constructed in 2012, it was the first aerospace facility to receive the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Looking to the future

A large part of Airbus’ R&D results in product improvements with direct environmental benefits. Eco-efficient facilities and leaner processes are also a key investment area.

New propulsion systems

Airbus has made rapid progress on electric propulsion with the E-Fan, a fully electric aircraft. Airbus now intends to build on its findings to further unlock the potential of electric propulsion.

Weighing 600 kg and with a maximum speed of 160 km/h, the E-Fan was the first aircraft with fans to have fully electric propulsion.
€3 billion

were invested in Research & Development in 2016

As part of Clean Sky 2, Airbus Helicopters is leading the design of LifeRCraft (Low Impact, Fast & Efficient RotorCraft), a compound rotorcraft which combines the speed and efficiency of a plane with the hovering capabilities of a helicopter.

3D printing: revolutionising production

In ALM, successive layers of material are laid down under computer control.

New methods of production are also helping to reduce the Group’s environmental footprint, with 3D printing, also known as additive layer manufacturing (ALM), able to deliver cheaper and lighter parts, and produce much less waste.

Airbus has started using ALM for tooling and prototyping, and is beginning to integrate parts into its commercial aircraft. Airbus Defence and Space has been using ALM for its satellites and launchers since 2007.

Airbus' future prospects: from ZEHST to the Concept Plane

Airbus’ Zero Emission Hypersonic Transport (ZEHST) concept sees a supersonic passenger airliner with minimal impact on the environment.

Airbus Innovations is collaborating with key international research organisations to evaluate potentially ground-breaking hypersonic flight technology at speeds of up to Mach 6.

The ZEHST (Zero Emission Hypersonic Transport) concept combines advanced turbo jet and rocket engines, as well as air-breathing, hydrogen-fuelled ramjets for the aircraft’s cruise flight at approximately 25 kilometres altitude.

As part of this focus on high-speed transport, Airbus Innovations (link to the section) is playing an active role in two key hypersonic projects : Hikari – a Japanese-European collaboration – and Hexafly International, which brings together European, Russian and Australian partners.

Airbus experts have also designed the Airbus Concept Plane to highlight the potential improvements new material and technologies could bring in decades to come, cutting fuel burn, emissions and noise.

Commitment to Clean Sky and SESAR programmes

The Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe(ACARE)'s long-term aim is to reduce air transport CO2 emissions by up to 75% by 2050

To meet its eco-efficiency goals, Airbus is committed to investing in continual improvements for its in-service jetliners and applies cutting-edge technologies to enhance new aircraft. This direction is underscored by Airbus’ leading role in the European Union’s Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative to develop new innovations with environmental improvements.

As part of Clean Sky 2, an extension of the original initiative that will run from 2014 to 2020, Airbus is applying its expertise to three main platforms:

  1. Advanced aircraft and engine configurations
  2. Innovative physical integration of cabins, systems and structures
  3. Next-generation electrical aircraft systems, cockpits and avionics

Airbus is also contributing to the improvement of air traffic management with its participation in the SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) joint undertaking. The initiative aims to improve control of aircraft flying the skies of Europe and reduce airport congestion – which could reduce CO2 emissions by 10% per flight.

The Airbus Concept Plane vision: allowing aircraft to take free-glide approaches into airports would lower emissions during descent and reduce noise during a steeper approach.

Responsible growth

Airbus is playing a leading role in developing and integrating new aircraft technologies that will allow aerospace industry to grow in a responsible and sustainable way.

Airbus Helicopters H160 is more powerful than previous generations, while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Meeting sustainability targets

Over the past 50 years, the aviation industry has cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by more than 70%, NOx emissions by 90% and noise by 75%

The aviation industry’s impact on global manmade CO2 emissions remains minimal: aviation produces around 2% of the world’s manmade emissions of carbon dioxide, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Nevertheless, the industry is constantly aiming for improvements and is on track to meet the ambitious short term goal of a 1.5% reduction in fuel burn by 2020.

Collaborating for a more sustainable tomorrow

Airbus leads or participates in a variety of European and international initiatives to improve the sustainability of the aerospace industry.

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

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

The company continue to develop collaborations across its supply chain to address environmental challenges and regulations.

Participation in leading international environmental working groups

Airbus is supporting joint initiatives throughout the aerospace and defence industries to improve overall environmental performance. The company supported the creation of the IAEG (International Aerospace Environmental Group), which aims at harmonising the response of the industry to existing and emerging environmental regulations, as well as aligning aerospace environmental standards.

Similarly, Airbus leads or participates in various European and international environmental working groups at International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) and Aerospace Defence Security (ADS), among others.

Measurement of Ozone by Airbus in-service Aircraft (MOZAIC)

Airbus MOZAIC programme also highlights the company’s strong commitment to advancing scientific knowledge on climate research. Seven Airbus widebody aircraft equipped with measurement devices are now flying internationally every day, with the support of the programme’s associated airlines: Lufthansa, China Airlines, Air France, Iberia, Cathay Pacific and Air Namibia.

The measurement devices capture key aircraft parameters and atmospheric data such as concentrations in ozone, water vapour and carbon monoxide.

Improving flights in operation

By combining state-of-the-art, fuel-efficient aircraft, sustainable fuels, streamlined air traffic management (ATM) procedures and optimised operations, Airbus is helping to make flight more socially and environmentally responsible.

In another industry intiative, Airbus is partnering with British Airways, Heathrow Airport and NATS (the main air navigation service provider in the UK) to study and develop operational procedures to reduce the number of people affected by noise around London’s Heathrow. This project utilises the capabilities of the A380, the quietest aircraft of its size.

Airbus is participating in an industry initiative to study noise reduction procedures around London's Heathrow airport. The project uses British Airways' A380s.

Developing sustainable fuels

Sustainable aviation fuel research is also a core tenet of the company’s initiatives – focusing on three central principles: supporting the qualification and certification of new fuels; the large-scale use of sustainable aviation fuels; and ensuring the sustainability of solutions.

Airbus is heavily involved in the ITAKA European initiative (Initiative Towards Sustainable Kerosene for Aviation), which aims to speed up the commercialisation of aviation biofuels in Europe.

i4D trials: towards overall Air Traffic Management efficiency in Europe

The result of close collaboration between SESAR members, the i4D research project aims to conciliate increasing traffic density by optimising flightpaths. In this new approach, aircraft data is transmitted in real time to ground systems, thereby increasing coordination and allowing the aircraft to fly a more efficient trajectory.

Helping others to monitor environmental impacts

Airbus offers dedicated customer support to pursue efficient operations and also develops satellites to help customers to monitor environmental impacts.

Satellites for environmental observation

Satellite technology is used to monitor changes in the environment, giving governments and other agencies greater understanding. Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor and the instrument manufacturer of many satellites made for space agencies that contribute in a unique way to monitoring the climate change and the environment.

For example, Copernicus is the European Programme for the establishment of a European capacity for Earth Observation addressing six specific topics: oceans, atmosphere, climate change, land, security and emergency management. Airbus Defence and Space 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 quantifying the effects of climate change, and provide high value geospatial-information in fields such as agriculture, deforestation or environment monitoring.

Airbus' ProSky and fuel-consultancy services

Airbus offers a range of services that benefit both the environment and its customers. Alongside its highly fuel-efficient aircraft, the company is working constantly to improve air traffic management solutions through its Airbus ProSky subsidiary. Airbus also offers further fuel-consultancy services to deliver savings to airlines.


Aircraft end-of-life management

Airbus’ Tarmac Aerosave joint venture is the first company dedicated to dismantling end-of-life aircraft in an environmentally friendly fashion.

With more than 12,000 aircraft set to retire from operation within the next 20 years, Airbus is acting to address the need to manage the end of life of these aircraft in a sustainable way.

With the Tarmac Aerosave platforms, Airbus and its partners have established two dedicated centres in France and Spain, where aircraft are decommissioned, dismantled and recycled in safe and environmentally responsible conditions.

In order to increase the recovery rate of materials at the end of life, Airbus is also leading a material recovery research project in collaboration with specialised companies involved in carbon fiber recycling.