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The Future of Airport Retail in a Carbon Constrained World

Project title:

The Future of Airport Retail in a Carbon Constrained World

Principal investigators:

Graeme Heyes


World Duty Free Group


2012 – 2015



The continued growth of the aviation sector is placing continued pressure on the environment. Resulting Government responses to the climate threat and the consequences of climate change itself will thus have implications for every sector of the economy. These challenges will give rise to new infrastructure, technologies, operational practices and business models whilst those who fail to adapt will likely decline or disappear.


Aviation is particularly exposed (politically and commercially) because of its reliance upon carbon fuels, the limited potential for technological change and the fact that aircraft emissions will rise at a time when Governments seek a massive reduction in CO2 across the economy.


Whilst CO2 emissions associated with airport retail represent a small proportion of those from the industry, it too will eventually fall under scrutiny as the sector looks to make carbon savings in every possible area. The fact that aviation associated retail is increasingly important to the profitability of airports (see Figure 1), and thus the sector as a whole, it is vital that this area is prepared to face such externalities by acting now to understand it’s environmental impacts, and to develop tools, strategies and new business plans with which to reduce these impacts. Failure to do so could put both the retailers themselves at risk, but also the sector as a whole.


Figure 1; Heathrow retail income breakdown, 2009

This study is designed to quantify CO2 emissions associated with airport retail activities and to consider alternative (low carbon) business models that would enable the sector to adapt to climate change so as to maintain income, employment and meet customer expectations in an increasingly carbon constrained world. In so doing it would underpin development of climate change policy, strategy and practice within the duty free and wider airport retail sector.


The study is being conducted by Graeme Heyes of CATE, in partnership with World Duty Free Group and is due for completion in 2015.



Heathrow Airport Limited. 2009. “Annual report and financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2009.”