The Drive for Sustainability

Jos Nijhuis
June 1, 2016

Jos Nijhuis
President and CEO, Schiphol Group

A 21-year old Dutch entrepreneur named Boyan Slat has a dream – to clean up the oceans. He wants to use the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which measures a staggering 19-million square kilometres, as a source of sustainable energy. “Everyone told me that once plastic gets into the ocean, there’s nothing you can do about it. And I wondered if that was true”, he said.

What an idea! It’s great to see someone so young feel emboldened to take on such a massive problem. It got me thinking that bold ideas, like Boyan’s, are going to create ripple effects far beyond anything we can currently imagine – to change our world for the better. Ideas that come from observation, persistence and tenacity.  

Schiphol is driven by bold ideas, too. It’s part of our DNA. A hundred years is a long time to be in business, and we have learnt a lot. We know that all businesses want to make money and thrive. Yet sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves – what’s it all for? We have to be able to have a meaningful impact on the world, and leave behind a healthier planet for our grandchildren to inherit. 

There are many ways we’ve taken bold steps to change the way we do business at Schiphol.

- We replaced our petrol-guzzling transport with sustainable alternatives. We have a fleet of Tesla electric taxis and buses that place less of a burden on the environment. That way, we can all breathe cleaner air.  

- All of our terminals and piers will be built with sustainable materials and equipped with the sustainable technologies. They are built to last a lifetime and alleviate the strain on environmental resources.  

- We installed 30,000-sq feet of solar panels to harness the sun’s energy. It’s turned into a sustainable source of electricity, which in turn powers the 35 electric platform buses. That way, we use renewable energy and reduce emissions. 

These are only a few examples, but they show how far we’ve come in creating a fully sustainable airport. An airport where we reuse, recycle, repair and refurbish absolutely everything to create a circular economy.

We need to stop giving lip service to sustainability and to start taking decisive action – as individuals, as businesses and as an industry. Our industry has to be cleaner and more environmentally sound, and we want to propel it towards a more sustainable future. We can only do this when we rally together! 

I look forward to continuing the conversation with you at the 2016 Airports Going Green conference. Let’s shape a future where we can connect profit with sustainability in a long-lasting and pragmatic way – and be part of the solution. There is so much we can do!

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