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Investigating small airport environmental practice engagement

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posted on 19.05.2021, 09:10 authored by Grace A. Harley
The majority of the world’s 3,759 commercial airports handle under 5 million passengers a year, identifying them as small. These small airports rarely employ practices to address their environmental externalities. Small airports have extensive and significant negative impacts on the environment which not only affect human and environmental health but also limit their own future growth and development opportunities. Resultantly, there is a compelling need to drive small airport engagement with environmental practices (EPs).
The aim of this thesis is to investigate small airport engagement with environmental practices (EPs) to provide recommendations to encourage EP adoption. By understanding this engagement, recommendations can be made to improve future EP uptake. To meet this aim, this thesis employs an online survey and in-depth semi-structured interviews with airport managers and environmental officers (guided by the Technology-Organisation-Environment (TOE) framework) to explore, detail and subsequently explain environmental behaviours and EP engagement at small airports.
The findings of the online survey reveal the EPs most commonly adopted by small airports and also note that airport ownership structures appear to affect EP engagement. Consumer pressure, regulatory intervention, and airport size are found to positively affect the adoption of EPs, whereas EP complexity and resource constraints are identified as barriers to adoption. Building on these descriptive findings, the interview results explain further how airport ownership can affect EP engagement, and also show that although cost can be an issue, human resource availability and local site-specific factors often pose the biggest challenges to EP adoption for small airports. The research makes both empirical and theoretical contributions to existing literature on the topic of small airport EP engagement, identifying patterns and behaviours unique to the small airport context. In establishing present small airport EP engagement and identifying the drivers and barriers affecting this, this thesis is able to make recommendations for policy and practice going forward, seeking to minimise the barriers and maximise the drivers. In doing so, future small airport EP engagement can be effectively encouraged and environmental performance improved.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


Loughborough University

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© Grace Harley

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A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




Andrew Timmis ; Mohammed Quddus ; Lucy Budd

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