More than ever, aviation’s growth and development is sensitive to how airports’ surrounding communities perceive them and the quality of their relationship. With the COVID-19 crisis enhancing the importance of Health in every aspect, Environmental & Community Engagement is a critical key point of aviation’s recovery. With environmental and social plans, airports need to ensure the support of the wider community to grow their business in a sustainable way.
In 2019, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published Circular 351, where Community Engagement is recognized as an important aspect of an airport’s sustainable growth strategy, Airports always had a special relationship with their surrounding communities. Such large structures are a significant part of the local landscape, and their impact extends far beyond the airport’s horizon. Thus, affected communities are of different nature – local communities, broader communities, or action groups – and present different characteristics depending on their culture and the territory’s history. Similarly, no two Airports are alike. Community Engagement needs to be adapted in its form and nature, to the population considered and the airports’ characteristics.
Early outreach to the community, with regular exchanges and two-way communication, will lead to mutual understanding and generally positive outcome and help in the mitigation of communities’ concerns.
Engaging with Communities living around an airport is an essential part of any airport’s sustainability management strategy. Of course there are the adverse environmental impacts that need to discussed in an honest and transparent way.
Aircraft noise is the main concern of communities, but the airport’s influence on local air quality and consequent health effects is also important. Water and waste management, greenhouse emissions, land use and wildlife habitat may also be raised.
But it is also equally important that the airport takes the opportunity to explain the positive aspects that it brings to the area. The social and economic benefits, along with the environmental impact, are considered to be the three pillars of sustainable development.
Strategic approach can be based on 4 pillars:
Take the lead: initiate Community Engagement and incorporate it early in your project development, include it as part of a wider Social Responsibility Programme ; be proactive by communicating your social plan to public officials ; maintain your ongoing engagements.
Be systematic: develop a systematic process for Community Engagement in a long-term plans ; distinguish what is legally required (formal engagement) from voluntary actions (informal engagement); develop a strategy and a clear plan, identifying all protagonists and detailing the processes ; investigate already existing data or “red flags” about your targeted community’s concerns beforehand ; measure the impact of your community engagement, make use of feedback to move forward.
Collaborate:collaborate with communities, being local, broader or group actions ; collaborate with public officials and form government partnerships.
Build trust: Maintain the dialogue with communities on a long-term, be constant in your community engagement, manage expectations of stakeholders; show community that their concerns are taken into account: adapt your Community Engagement to the targeted population, communicate with transparency, organize opened and inclusive exchanges ; Show the community that your exchanges are paying off: provide them with concrete results of your exchanges.
Envisa can help Airports and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to organise, plan, and build their Community Engagement Strategy. We have a highly experienced team of multidisciplinary environmental consultants and project managers who have been working in the aviation industry for many years. From setting up Community Engagement Strategy from scratch to establishing mediation between stakeholders, our team has accompanied many airports around the world with their Community Engagement processes. We among others, supported Balanced Approach and Aircraft noise projects and ensure Community Engagement and Environmental Management.