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How COVID-19 may help in the fight against climate change

1 Mar 2021

Brought to you by TravelPerk, the #1 business travel platform.

How COVID-19 may help in the fight against climate change

“The pandemic has presented such an existential crisis – such a stark reminder of our fragility – that it has driven us to confront the global threat of climate change more forcefully and to consider how, like the pandemic, it will alter our lives.”

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock

2020 radically altered the way that businesses see sustainability. In fact, Blackrock itself issued a statement that there was a 96% increase from 2019 in investments into sustainable assets in 2020 (BBC). This shows us that COVID-19 made companies reflect not just on their current exceptional circumstances, but also on their business models. It made them look at what was really important on a personal, professional, and social level. 

The coronavirus pandemic woke a sort of “collective consciousness” on sustainability. Ideas for a more sustainable business that were recognized but had long been dormant, were suddenly accelerated and substantiated in 2020. Notions like “we need to be more sustainable, just not right now” have been put to bed. Whereas before sustainability was kept on a low priority, there has now been a real shift in mindset toward it. 

We’re all in this together

Polar ice caps melting

What is a “collective consciousness”? It’s defined as “the body of beliefs and sentiments common to the average of members of a society” (Oxford Reference)—here, to do with sustainability. As we get closer to the deadline to achieve the 2030 Agenda, this collective consciousness could be the key to turning the rhetoric on sustainability around.

The sustainability trend started picking up the pace even before the pandemic. The effects of global warming became more clearly visible. Images of the shrinking size of the polar ice caps began to drive the message home. 196 parties signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 to limit global warming. The “Greta Effect” took the world by storm. “If a teenager can make such an impact, and do so much good—why can’t I?” we asked ourselves. Governments, international organizations, and companies started to set real, scientifically-based targets to help mitigate climate change. Then COVID-19 happened and made us all understand how ill-equipped we were to tackle a crisis on such a global scale.

The what’s, why’s, and how’s of sustainable business travel

Plane flying over the jungle

Picture this. A young man riding his motorcycle in the rust-red, sandy streets of Ghana. He drives past cocoa plantations and banana trees. He pulls up at a solar kiosk on Lake Volta, called SunHut. He sits in the shade of the kiosk and starts working. Above him, solar modules are producing 1 kWh of solar power per hour. That’s enough to charge 80 mobile phones and 80 solar lamps at the same time. Slowly, people from the nearby villages start gathering. They finally have access to power.

Now picture this. You live in Nepal, one of the least developed countries (LDCs) in the world. The effects of climate change are apparent everywhere you go. The soil is eroding, landslides are becoming more common, and floods are getting stronger. All because of deforestation and climate change. Finally, atmosfair and AEPC offer you an alternative with the Biogas Support Program. Wood is the most common source of energy for cooking in Nepal but it can be replaced by biogas. In fact, one biogas plant can save around 3300 kg of wood per year! Now, your need for firewood is reduced, and erosion is to some extent prevented. 

Offset carbon footprint travel

Stories like these are only possible thanks to the dedication and contribution of others. It’s stories like these that drive atmosfair to engage partners like TravelPerk into our initiatives. Back in 2020, we joined forces to create GreenPerk—a service that gives business travelers and their companies the ability to measure, calculate, and offset their entire travel-related carbon footprint. 

So, how does it work? Well, TravelPerk’s customers pay €27 per tonne of CO₂ emitted on a business trip. Usually, that amounts to about 4% of the total price of their trip. All of those proceeds go straight to atmosfair’s portfolio of projects and are allocated to projects like the ones in Ghana or Nepal. In fact, in 1002 trips, TravelPerk customers offset 282.7 t of CO₂! We contribute to ongoing projects together and initiate, plan, and provide start-up financing for projects that need to get off the ground. Without support like this, many of these life-changing initiatives wouldn’t be possible. 

Yes, business travel can be sustainable

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been clear that we need to rethink and reevaluate the way we travel for business. We need to start thinking more about traveler safety, and about having the flexibility to change or cancel trips depending on the circumstances. But, we also need to give sustainability a seat at the table. 

So, how can we do that?

It’s about making a change in our mindset. It’s about making a conscious choice to travel sustainably with things like carbon offsetting. That started happening on a broader scale during the pandemic. It’s difficult to see and track how strong this development will be right now, due to the travel restrictions currently in place. We predict that once these restrictions ease, it will take about 1 or 2 years for us to really see the effects of this collective consciousness. It seems fair to predict that this trend will catch on in the near future.

Singapore sustainable business city

We know sustainability is becoming increasingly important to companies. We know that business travel can be as sustainable as we make it. We know that people are shifting their focus and priorities more towards sustainability. 

But, what will that look like in practice? We took a look at some of the main megatrends that will define sustainable business travel going forward.

A shift in attitude

We’ll see companies include sustainability as an important component of travel management. It will be included in business travel management policies and will become a routine part of the booking process.

The ability to make a conscious choice when booking

We’ll see just how much of a carbon footprint each trip leaves. Travelers and travel managers will make qualified decisions about offsetting that footprint on a per-flight basis, instead of the overall footprint left by our company.

Including sustainability at the planning stage

Gone are the days of retroactively measuring and maybe offsetting your carbon footprint. As business travel returns, companies will begin to include sustainability issues when planning and forecasting for business travel.

A stronger need for emissions data

Companies will have access to real-time data on carbon emissions from their trips. Whereas before we were only able to see the total amount of carbon emitted or offset per year, now we’ll be able to track it as it happens.

Integrating emissions data into platforms

Travel management platforms will now have emissions data integrated straight into their dashboards. Users will be able to track this data with other pieces of travel information like price, itinerary, travel safety information, and more.

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paper plane