Inside Swissport International’s ambitious net-zero pledge

From airport lounges to cargo handling and private jet pushback, Swissport operates in 300 airports and has committed to net zero, says CEO Warwick Brady

When you operate a fleet of vehicles at almost 300 airports in 44 countries, provide ground services for 186 million passengers and handle 4.8 million tons of air freight, reaching net zero must seem a truly daunting task.

And while Swissport International AG’s net-zero target being set for 2050 may seem tardy, the company is also committing to what it calls ‘material near-term carbon reduction’.

We learned at COP28 that subtle phrasing and nuances of language can make all the difference and, in this instance, Swissport seems to be taking a sensible and pragmatic approach to decarbonising its operations and supply chain.

Swissport says the ambitious goal will be realised through a transition pathway addressing Scopes 1, 2 and 3 of carbon emissions, taking measurable action as part of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

“Setting a target for net-zero emissions is of utmost importance for Swissport,” says Warwick Brady, President & CEO of Swissport International AG. 

“Addressing climate change head-on is the most significant challenge of our time. In committing to targets which will be validated through the Science Based Targets initiative, Swissport makes a meaningful contribution to securing a sustainable future for the planet and for our business.”

Warwick Brady, President & CEO announces net-zero targets for Swissport International AG

Let’s not forget that SBTi is a commitment to defining and implementing targets that will limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Swissport will submit its targets and undergo a validation process in the next two years. 

The company, which was formed in 1996 in Switzerland, has already achieved some sustainability goals, but there is much work to do.

Not least of that is the electrification of a fleet of ground support vehicles – from forklifts to pushback vehicles – that you see when peering out of any aircraft window before takeoff and after landing.

Net Zero: Electrification to plastics phase-out

While some of these vehicles are easier to switch to electric, some like the mighty Towbarless Aircraft Tractors – the ones that push a fully loaded aircraft from parking position to taxiway – are harder to switch away from diesel.

TLD was one of the first manufacturers to recognise the need for an eco solution, and is being rolled out by Swissport.

In 2022, Swissport set itself a target of 55% electric fleet by 2032 – and that is already being achieved in some airports.

Of course, it’s not just a case of switching to electric – although that is challenging enough when dealing with the logistics of charging in an airport environment.

Swissport has also set a near-term target for reducing Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by a minimum of 42% by 2032. It also launched comprehensive reporting aligned with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol that also includes those tricky Scope 3 emissions.

There is a phase-out of plastics in Aspire Airport lounges by 2025, plus efforts to minimise waste and create circularity across all operations.

Today, Swissport operates in 294 airports globally, with the biggest market being North America, then Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia-Pacific. 

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