13th May, 2022
AEF has joined a coalition of 13 international partners calling for a reduction in business flights, as part of the Travel Smart campaign. In 2019, business travel accounted for about 15 to 20% of global air travel, and while the pandemic drove down air travel across the board, we now have the opportunity to avoid returning to ‘business as usual’, and to build upon lower-emission habits established during the pandemic.
The campaign, which was launched by T&E on the 10th of May, pushes for businesses to commit publicly to a target of at least a 50% reduction in flying emissions without using offsets based on 2019 levels, by 2025 or before. Across Europe, a mode shift from flying to train travel could play a greater role in meeting this target.
Of the 39 businesses analysed from the UK, four have received the highest grade in the Travel Smart ranking system. Legal & General Group, Ernst & Young, Fidelity International and Lloyds Banking Group have all committed to an absolute reduction in air travel emissions, and Fidelity and Lloyds lead the UK with a 50% reduction target by 2025. All four of these companies have been setting an example by reporting their air travel emissions for more than a year.
Currently, many companies fail to disclose how they account for carbon emissions from employee travel. This raises issues of transparency and makes it difficult for the public and regulatory bodies to accurately verify or scrutinise emissions to see whether the company is progressing towards its climate goals. The Travel Smart campaign encourages greater transparency to not only promote accountability, but also to encourage other companies to cut their corporate flying emissions. Some academic research in the UK has identified a ripple effect, whereby knowing someone who has given up flying because of climate change can significantly influence others to cut back on their own flights.
So far, the campaign has produced a ranking of 230 US and European companies using nine indicators relating to the setting of emissions reduction targets and reporting of air travel emissions. This ranking has been divided into three categories, ‘leaders’, ‘followers’ and ‘laggards’. Out of the 230 companies, 193 have been found to not be acting with ‘sufficient speed and ambition to tackle corporate travel emissions’.
The Travel Smart campaign seeks to spur greater ambition and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5°C warming scenarios. AEF thinks this approach makes environmental and economic sense, and, as some reports have shown, protects employee wellbeing. In 2020, we provided pointers for businesses wanting to decrease their travel emissions. As the campaign develops, we hope to add to these resources so companies find it easier to meet climate goals.
AEF looks forward to working with T&E and the partners within the Travel Smart initiative to encourage more UK businesses to commit to cutting their flight emissions.