At Southwest Airlines, we are committed to making environmentally responsible decisions while remaining true to our low‑cost philosophy.
Operating with a green filter means making environmentally responsible decisions. While this responsibility is inherent in each Employee’s Servant’s Heart, it’s the job of our Environmental Services Department to formally develop environmental policies, programs, and related procedures. Environmental Services works as part of the General Counsel Department and collaborates with all of Southwest Airlines’ operating departments to maintain compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations and manage risk while protecting our Planet and our bottom line.
The mindset of operating with a green filter has also been championed by our Green Team and Green Ambassadors. Our Green Team is comprised of Employees from each operating group who work to collect, share, and implement our environmentally responsible ideas and initiatives. In 2011, the efforts of the Green Team—along with the Facilities Team and Purchasing Department—were acknowledged when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Southwest Airlines Headquarters the Energy Star rating for 2010, and FORTUNE magazine recognized one of our own—Marilee McInnis, Senior Manager of Community and founder of the Southwest Airlines Green Team—as one of the Most Admired Green Leaders. Our Green Ambassadors expand the reach of the Green Team by promoting environmental stewardship in the communities we serve. Green Ambassador projects in 2011 included sending weekly e-mails on green and sustainable ideas, improving recycling collection containers, and starting a new recycling initiative.
These groups, dedicated to preserving our Planet, collaborate to foster Southwest Airlines’ compliance and mitigation of environmental impacts.
Maintaining compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental laws and regulations is fundamental to our environmental policy. In 2011, we upheld our annual goal of zero environmental violations in our operations as tracked through monetary fines assessed. We were able to meet this ambitious goal by improving our environmental management systems, following established procedures, and training our Employees to meet our compliance goals.
We also regularly conduct audits to maintain environmental compliance. Our standard auditing protocol reviews a station’s record keeping, permit status, and compliance with requirements of regulatory plans such as Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) and Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans. We perform a visual, walk-through inspection to confirm that key compliance practices are enacted in each of the cities we serve. With the acquisition of AirTran in 2011, we expanded our auditing program to include all AirTran locations. We track all audit findings and corresponding corrective action in databases, which also include information about our permits and their expiration dates as well as the spill history for each of our locations.
Measuring Our Environmental Impact: Fines and Sanctions
One of the ways we can measure our impact on the environment is by the number of environmental fines and sanctions we receive. We prepare formal reports for Leadership, in which we track the number of and dollar amount associated with any environmental violations we receive. Our goal is zero environmental violations. In 2011, received zero monetary fines. This accomplishment is the result of hard work and diligence by our Environmental Services Team and all our operating groups.
History of Environmental Violations Resulting in Monetary Fines
We had zero environmental violations resulting in monetary fines in 2011.
|Year||Number of Violations Resulting in Fines||Total Fines|
Measuring Our Environmental Impact: Spills
We recognize that spills of chemicals, oils, and fuels can have a significant impact on our Planet, so we make every effort to prevent them. However, we acknowledge that despite our best efforts, some spills do happen due to equipment failure or human error. In order to be more transparent, we have summarized our recent spill history. Our total spill volume for 2011, resulting from a total of 51 spill incidents, was approximately 650 gallons at Southwest Airlines-controlled facilities. None of the spill incidents in 2011 required reporting to the National Response Center or in our financial statements as a liability. We track our spills using an online spill reporting form. This not only makes it simple for our Employees to report a spill in a timely and accurate manner, but it also provides automatic e-mail distribution to the entire Environmental Services Team upon submittal for quick response and reporting to regulatory agencies when required. Details from all spills are also automatically compiled in a spreadsheet for the Environmental Services Team’s reference and for the operating groups’ development of spill prevention strategies.
History of Recent Spills
None of the spill incidents in 2011 required reporting to the National Response Center or in our financial statements as a liability.
|Year||Number of Spill Incidents3|
Mitigation of Environmental Impacts
Fuel conservation is a primary focus of our environmental policy and has been a priority since the founding of Southwest Airlines. We are continuing to search for ways to save fuel in all of our operations, and in doing so, remain true to our low-cost philosophy. More information on fuel conservation can be found in Energy & Resource Use.
Southwest Airlines’ recycling program goes beyond regulatory requirements to protect our Planet’s resources. Our recycling program includes recycling trash from aircraft and facilities as well as industrial waste materials from maintenance of aircraft, ground support equipment, and facilities. Through these efforts, Southwest Airlines conserves landfill space, minimizes greenhouse gas emissions, preserves raw materials, purchases renewable energy-driven equipment, and educates Employees and Customers about recycling in the workplace and at home. More information on recycling can be found in Recycling & Waste Management.
We have a formal auditing program in place to monitor our compliance and trigger corrective actions when needed. More information on this program can be found in the Compliance discussion above.
Conservation in Action: 40 Projects for 40 Years
In celebration of our 40th Anniversary, Southwest Airlines teamed up with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) for Conservation in Action: 40 Projects for 40 Years—nicknamed Tour 40—to conduct 40 conservation service projects in national, state, and local parks from Dallas to Detroit and Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Throughout the summer, Tour 40 engaged 1,500 Employees and completed meaningful conservation work to the great benefit of local parks and green spaces. For example, the removal of invasive plant species in Chicago immediately improved the quality of water for the city. In one morning in Missouri, volunteers completed needed clearings and plantings that would have taken the parks outside Kansas City and St. Louis more than three months to complete. And in Houston, severe drought left the local arboretum vulnerable to wildfires, which were erupting throughout the state. SCA and Southwest Airlines Volunteers removed leaf litter and forest debris away from the building, creating a defensible zone to protect the beautiful nature center in the event of a wildfire. Other projects included building, repairing, and beautifying community recreation facilities such as playgrounds, picnic areas, and park buildings; installing erosion control devices to protect historical agricultural ponds; and participation in community events. As a result of the Tour 40 projects:
- 1,000 native trees and grasses were planted and mulched
- 9 miles of trails were blazed and restored
- 58 truckloads of invasive species and debris were removed
More information about Tour 40 can be found in Community Involvement.
All operational groups are required to participate in annual environmental training to review ongoing policies and programs so that they are familiar with any new policies or regulations. This training covers topics such as storm water protection, proper waste disposal, air permit compliance, and aircraft drinking water compliance. More information on Employee training programs can be found in Environmental and Sustainability Training and Training.
We strive to mitigate noise and be a good neighbor in each of the communities we serve. We do this by ensuring our fleet meets current aircraft noise standards and our operations meet locally established curfews. The addition of winglets to eligible models in our fleet has also resulted in quieter aircraft operations resulting in less noise for surrounding communities.
|1||Includes two solid waste fines for leaving bags of trash outside of full roll-off containers and one air permit violation for use of a wooden-handled brush in a parts washing unit and use of aerosol paints in a paint booth.|
|2||Includes two solid waste fines—one for manifest discrepancies and one for failure to file an annual waste report for one of our locations.|
|3||Includes spills that were not reportable by regulatory standards.|
LUV Story: AirTran: Mitigation of Environmental Impacts
At Southwest Airlines, we are committed to making environmentally responsible decisions, and with the acquisition of AirTran in 2011, we began to integrate with an airline that shares our views on environmental stewardship. AirTran’s environmental initiatives include memberships in two critical state environmental programs among many other sustainable operations initiatives.
AirTran achieved bronze-level status in the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia. To achieve this partnership status, AirTran met requirements including having an established environmental team and a written environmental policy, documenting baseline performance, developing action plans, and reporting on environmental activities. Being a member of this organization has led to successful collaboration and an improvement in environmental performance.
To provide Employees with environmentally friendly commuting options, AirTran worked with the Clean Air Campaign, a nonprofit organization under contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT). As part of this program, Employees can register for the Commuter Rewards System, keep track of clean commutes, and win prizes. In 2011, the Clean Air Campaign recognized AirTran as a gold-level partner for AirTran’s outstanding Employee participation.
Along with membership in these environmental organizations, AirTran has looked for other ways to improve environmental performance. Examples of this include a more eco-friendly engine wash program, initiatives for cleaner-burning ground support equipment, and a successful recycling program.