As one of the world's oldest continually operating airports, it’s essential we have a clear approach to environmental management across our operations.

The airport site is surrounded by a number of waterways with Botany Bay to the south, Cooks River to the west, Alexandra Canal to the north, Engine Ponds and Mill Stream to the east. These are predominantly tidal waterways which drain to Botany Bay in the south and service large upstream urban catchments. While the natural environment at the airport has been significantly altered since 1920 when the site was first declared as an aerodrome, there still remain important areas of biodiversity, primarily the Sydney Airport Wetlands which comprises Mill Pond, Engine Pond East, Engine Pond West and Mill Stream.

Our Environment Policy reinforces our commitment to the environmentally sustainable operation of the airport, from which objectives, key performance indicators, action plans and programs are developed.

Sydney Airport’s Master Plan 2039 sets out the longer term priorities for the airport, with a clear focus on the environment, sustainability and climate change.

Sydney Airport is committed to continually improving its environmental performance. We recognise the need to manage the airport site in an environmentally sustainable manner for the benefit of people in Sydney, NSW and Australia. This responsibility extends to all our staff, airport tenants and other stakeholders.

Our five-year strategy for environmental management at Sydney Airport is set out in our Airport Environment Strategy (AES). The delivery of this strategy is underpinned by our Environmental Management System (EMS).

The Safety, Security and Sustainability (SSS) Committee assists the Board in fulfilling its environmental responsibilities. The SSS Committee Charter sets out its objectives and functions.

The Deputy Chief Financial Officer has organisational responsibility for environmental management.

Airport Environment Strategy

The AES 2019-2024 was developed in parallel with Sydney Airport’s Master Plan 2039 and sets out the priorities for the airport covering a five year period in accordance with the Airport Act 1996 and Airport (Environmental Protection) Regulations 1997.

The AES 2019 - 2024 sets the strategic direction for environmental management at the airport and has three elements to its stated purpose: operate in accordance with relevant environmental legislation and standards, promote continual improvement, and realise improvements in environmental sustainability. As such, the AES 2019 – 2024 covers all environmental aspects associated with the operation of the airport. It also sets out our approach to construction and development on the airport.

The management of these environmental aspects is outlined in separate environmental action plans (EAP), detailed in Section 3 of the Environment Strategy.

Environmental Actions Plans (EAPs)Strategy Chapter
Sustainability and environmental managementChapter 3.2
Climate change mitigation and adaptationChapter 3.3
Air qualityChapter 3.4
Ground-based noiseChapter 3.5
Ground transportChapter 3.6
Water quality and water useChapter 3.7
BiodiversityChapter 3.8
HeritageChapter 3.9
Waste and resource recoveryChapter 3.10
Soil and land managementChapter 3.11
Spill response and hazardous materialsChapter 3.12

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC) is responsible for administering environmental legislation at Sydney Airport. The latest AES 2019 – 2024 and Master Plan 2039 were approved by the Minster for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development on 28 March 2019.

The Airport Environment Officer (AEO) is Commonwealth Government appointee by DITRDC to oversee the implementation of environmental aspects of the Airports Act 1996, including the implementation of the EAPs listed in the AES 2019 – 2024.

Environmental Management System

Sydney Airport’s EMS is consistent with the relevant Australian and international standards; AS/NZS ISO14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems – Requirements with guidance for use. The EMS enables planning, implementation and review of daily environmental management, ensuring a cycle of continuous environmental improvement.

The EMS includes Sydney Airport’s Environment Policy which establishes environmental principles for the environmentally sustainable operation of the airport.

Our people and selected contractors complete training on our EMS. From 2022 onwards, this is mandatory for new SYD employees.

Environmental management of tenants

As the airport lessee company, we have a role in governing environmental management of airport tenants. We classify airport tenants into three tiers based on risk. According to the tenant’s environmental risk, appropriate controls and programs are implemented to maintain compliance and encourage continuous environmental improvement.

Regulatory reporting

We submit an Annual Environment Report to the Secretary of DITRDC, which details the airport’s environmental performance for the financial year along the commitments in the AES 2019-2024. The Annual Environment Report supports Sydney Airport in meetings its reporting obligations under the Airport (Environmental Protection) Regulations 1997.

We also report on our carbon emissions annually under the Commonwealth Government’s National Greenhouse Emissions Reporting Scheme (NGER) and submit pollutant emission reports to the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI). Information about other air emissions is reported annually in the performance data section of the Sustainability Report.

Environmental management of construction and development

We have a rigorous development assessment process, which enables us to address our obligations under the Airports (Building Control) Regulations 1996. We consider the AES, Master Plan 2039, the Airports Act and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act prior to granting any development approval.

All development proposals at Sydney Airport are subject to a thorough planning and environmental impact assessment process undertaken by our planning and environment teams.

Sydney Airport, the AEO, the Airport Building Controller (ABC) and, in some circumstances, the relevant Federal Government Minister can either reject a development proposal or make approval conditional to environmental impacts being eliminated or minimised.

SYD requires contractors involved in construction on the airport to develop Construction Environmental Management Plans (CEMPs) for proposed works.

Construction works cannot commence until SYD's environment team and the AEO have reviewed and approved the project-specific CEMP.

SYD’s Construction Environmental Management Handbook guides best practice environmental management for construction at the airport.

Section 2.3 of the AES 2019-2024 describes in further detail the assessment process undertaken for new developments on the airport.

Environmental monitoring

Sydney Airport undertakes regular monitoring programs for stormwater, groundwater and air quality. The monitoring program is reported to the SSS Committee and in the Annual Environment Report.

SYD’s Airport Operating Licence (AOL) contains minimum environmental standards for licensees. Read more about the Airport Operating Licence here.