SFO Celebrates Global Recognition for Major Environmental Milestone


The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) announced a major environmental milestone with the renewal of its certification in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program by the Airports Council International (ACI), the foremost advocate for airport operators worldwide. First awarded to SFO in 2016, this three-year re-certification at the program’s “Level 3” recognizes SFO for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and management from its own operations as well as collaboration with third parties, such as airlines and service providers, in reduction strategies.

“SFO is an airport industry leader in sustainability, and renewal of our Level 3 Airport Carbon Accreditation from Airports Council International represents a major milestone towards being a leading carbon neutral airport in the U.S.,” said Airport Director Ivar C. Satero. “We have set big goals to achieve zero net energy use, zero waste, and carbon neutrality, and by working together, we will accomplish our goal to be the world’s most sustainable airport.”

“Airports strive to be good partners within their communities and in the global aviation system by promoting sustainability and environmentally responsible practices,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke. “One of the chief ways North American airports can lower their carbon footprint is by participating in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program. I applaud San Francisco International Airport for achieving an ambitious three-year renewal at Level 3. Airports like SFO are leading our industry on a path toward continued success in innovation and sustainability.”

Airport Carbon Accreditation is the global standard for carbon management in the airport industry. The aim of this program is to encourage and enable airports to implement best practices in carbon management, with the ultimate objective of becoming carbon neutral. ACI created the Airport Carbon Accreditation program in 2009 to assist airports in improving their sustainability performance by becoming more energy and carbon efficient. The program covers on-site operational activities that contribute to airport carbon emissions, guiding and supporting airport environmental management through a process of continual improvement and partnership with airport stakeholders.

Airport Carbon Accreditation provides four levels of certification, 1 through 3+, with each higher level recognizing an airport's increased achievement in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving energy from the operations that are under their direct control, while aiding and encouraging other airport enterprises to reduce their own GHG emissions. The culmination of the program is Level 3+ accreditation, recognizing an airport that has achieved carbon neutrality.

SFO has achieved significant success in reducing its carbon footprint and is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from a 1990 baseline, all by 2021. Already, SFO’s carbon dioxide emissions are 39% below their level in 1990, as to be reported in SFO’s forthcoming tenth annual Climate Action Plan. In previous years, ACI has recognized SFO for its Climate Action Plan.

SFO’s Five-Year Strategic Plan actually sets the goal of becoming a “triple zero” campus, achieving not just carbon neutrality, but also net zero energy and zero waste, as well as being an operator of healthy and water-balanced facilities. Some of the efforts SFO has engaged in to operate more sustainably while reducing its carbon footprint include:

  • Achieving the world’s first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) facility at an airport with SFO’s Airfield Operations Facility, and holding all new construction to similarly high ZNE standards.
  • Purchasing 100% carbon-free electricity from SFPUC’s Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric plant.
  • Installing over 1.5 MW of solar capacity at buildings and parking facilities across the Airport.
  • Providing air conditioning and electrical power for all parked aircraft, avoiding over 47,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and saving 4.9 million gallons of jet fuel annually.
  • Eliminating nearly 220,000 annual bus trips by constructing the AirTrain, an all-electric train system to ferry passengers to the Rental Car Center, and soon, Long Term Parking.
  • Driving the use of next-generation sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by convening a multi-sector working group and activating gateway projects to deliver alternative fuel to our airlines.
  • Expanding drought-tolerant landscaping across the campus, cutting SFO’s water use for irrigation in half to save 6 million gallons of water annually.
  • Deploying a Zero Waste Concessions Program, reducing wasteful single-use plastics by moving all tenants to 100% compostable food ware.
  • Purchasing six new battery-electric zero-emission buses, which will be the first in the City and County of San Francisco, that will reduce both operating costs and carbon emissions in support of SFO’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021.