According to SITA’s 2021 Air Transport IT Insights, sustainability has emerged as a priority for many Chinese airports, with IT based strategies being explored to reduce environmental impacts. This focus on making operations more responsible bodes well for future performance, even though this could have been done sooner.

Airports increasing their IT sustainability budgets will bring them in line with their international counterparts that are already running IT strategies that improve environmental performance. According to GlobalData’s Thematic Scorecard for the airport sector, the four Chinese airport companies that have been included in the scorecard (Shenzhen Airport Company, Shanghai International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport) are in the bottom six for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) related performance. This improved focus on sustainability will help these airports improve their scores, and contribute towards China’s aim of a greener economy.

Cloud technology will reduce energy consumption

More than half of Chinese airports plan to shift their data centres from dedicated infrastructure, to the Cloud, over the next three years. According to GlobalData’s Emerging Technology: Sentiment Analysis Q1 2021 Thematic Research, 56% of business executives stated that Cloud computing will ‘live up to all its promises’, which was the second highest percentage for all the technologies that could have been chosen for the answer. This reflected a more positive sentiment than that shown towards AI, 5G, and IoT.

A big part of the Cloud’s promise is to contribute towards companies’ sustainability targets while lowering utility bills. A case study completed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory stated that moving business software (on a national scale in the US) to the Cloud could save enough electricity each year to power Los Angeles for 12 months.

A delayed response

According to a GlobalData poll (ended 19 October 2021, with 1,500 responses), 74.8% of respondents stated that their company has already put greenhouse gas reduction targets in place, hinting that many tourism-related companies across the globe have already adopted IT focused strategies to reduce energy consumption.

It could be argued that Chinese airports are late in recognising the positive impact that the Cloud can have on environmental and financial performance. When looking at other examples, Heydar Aliyev International Airport, in Azerbaijan, became the first airport in the world to completely switch to Cloud technologies in 2019, and several of the UK’s major airports, such as Gatwick, started to replace IT systems with Cloud computing services in the first half of the 2010s.

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Although it may be late, Chinese airports’ increased focus on operating more sustainably through technological solutions will allow for a more efficient and greener future. Additionally, it will help China’s main airports to catch up with their international counterparts in terms of environmental performance.