CAA Cleans up

The CAA aims to set an example when it comes to environmental policy and reducing energy use. Surprised? Peter McCrum was

If the Civil Aviation Authority appears in the environmental press it is likely to be because of aircraft emissions or airport expansion. It would be fair to say that the CAA is not necessarily the first organisation that springs to mind when thinking about having a positive environmental impact. But this belies the fact that the CAA has introduced effective and successful internal environmental policies and is making a real effort to improve the environmental performance of its operations. The CAA won awards for both environmental performance and energy efficiency in 2003, which shows a real willingness to engage with these issues.

The Civil Aviation Authority is the UK's independent specialist aviation regulator, financed entirely through charges levied on the companies it regulates. The organisation has about 1,000 staff in offices throughout the UK, the largest number based at the safety regulation group head office at Aviation House near Gatwick Airport.

Sustainable business approach

"As an organisation we have been interested in achieving a sustainable business approach," says Tim Williams, CAA health, safety and environmental advisor. "As a regulatory body the CAA encourages environmental impact reduction throughout the aviation industry as a whole, so it was only natural for us to look at our own environmental policies.

"By employing simple utility management techniques we have been successful in reducing the environmental impact of several areas of our business including purchasing, paper reduction, waste recycling, water reduction and reduction in the use of car transport. In particular we managed to substantially reduce our energy use by 17%, which was a great business win."

The policies adopted by the CAA make sound business sense. "We still have to do business. We don't do anything unless there is a strong business case for it," Williams says. Following the launch of an energy efficiency awareness campaign, and by using building management systems the organisation has been able to reduce energy use by 4% - a cost saving of £6,300/year. Since 2001 the organisation has reduced its water consumption by an impressive 50%, saving £11,000 each year.

The CAA has looked at and considered installing an environmental management system, but its environmental working group decided against it. It was felt that the organisation's structure did not justify the expense. "We have over 20 regional offices, but a lot of them are very small, with only two or three people, and our policies there tend to be a bit ad hoc," says Williams.

"The regional offices are often leased and managed from other companies, so we don't have much control over the building's energy use and we share the facilities with other organisations. Also, we don't have to comply with ISO 14001 as we are a regulatory body and we're not selling our services. We feel that given the size of our organisation, an environment management system would be overly bureaucratic."

An impressive record

But despite this, the CAA has an impressive record since the introduction of these measures. Over 70% of its waste is recycled, including some of its redundant computer equipment. "We always think we can do better and it is fair to say that we've made the quick wins, the easy savings. From now on it will be a lot harder. Now we have to trim back on our use of resources and our procurement policies will reflect this," says Williams. "You have to keep reinforcing the message. It's a hearts and minds campaign."



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