Latest news and insights from Australia’s airports


Alicia Burgmann, Head of Sustainability, Sydney Airport 

How did you get your start in the airport sector?

I joined Sydney Airport as Head of Sustainability at the beginning of this year. I’m really excited to join the Sydney Airport team and the industry after a decade in the energy sector, working in sustainability, social responsibility and stakeholder engagement on energy projects across Papua New Guinea, Chile and Indonesia.

I started my career in public affairs and government relations working in Canberra, which is where I got my first real exposure to the aviation industry through a client, Emirates.

What is it like working in this sector?

There are so many moving parts in this sector, and I’m quickly finding that no two days are the same. Sydney Airport is like a small city and there are great opportunities to collaborate and do great things that contribute to the airport’s sustainability.

We launched our three-year sustainability commitments in February this year so it’s an exciting time in the airport’s sustainability journey. It’s great to have joined the team at a time where we’re kicking off new initiatives to deliver on the commitments we’ve made. I’m especially excited about our three flagship initiatives of climate resilience, electrification and airfield and airspace efficiency, which further integrate sustainability across the business, and will drive a step change in our sustainability performance.

What did you find challenging/surprising about the sector when you first joined?

The biggest surprise when I first joined Sydney Airport was the sheer number of people it takes to keep our passengers moving. We have an airport community of more than 32,000, which still blows my mind six months in!

What advice would you give to women aspiring to leadership positions in the airport sector? 

Focus on what you’re passionate about, as that really drives your ambition. Some advice I was given early on in my career was to take every opportunity that’s given to you.

You might not be sure where you’ll end up straight away, but the journey will open more doors along the way. My journey led me to Santiago de Chile for a couple of years and it was a life-changing experience for me personally and my career.

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career that you apply to your day to day work?

For me, leadership is about being open to learning every day and knowing that you need to take learnings from both the good and bad situations. Just like we are – as a business, as a society and as individuals – continually learning about what is sustainable, I’m always open to learning something new.

What are some patterns you’ve noticed over the years about women at work, and things they could be doing to advance their careers?

I used to fall into the trap of thinking that the things I had achieved in my career were because I was ‘lucky’, which I think lots of women do.

When I shifted my thinking about this a couple of years ago, I started to take responsibility for where I wanted to take my career. I started to recognise that the opportunities I did have were a result of my determination and ability, and recognition of the work I’d done. Once that realisation set in, my confidence grew and I saw positive changes in how I approached new opportunities.

Are there any moments in your career that you are particularly proud of?

I’m proud to have been part of the team that delivered Sydney Airport’s Sustainability Linked Loan (SLL). The first syndicated SLL in Australia, the largest syndicated SLL across the Asia Pacific region and the largest syndicated airport SLL globally.

This initiative established a direct two-way link between our sustainability performance and cost of capital, which will see the cost of our debt finance reduce as we reach our agreed sustainability target. This is pretty exciting for me as a sustainability professional because it embeds sustainability across the business and drives performance improvements.


This article was written for the Australian Airport Association’s Women in Airports Network – an online community to support the advancement of women across all aspects of airport operations.

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