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The ultimate guide to reducing carbon footprint for businesses

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How to reduce carbon footprint from business travel

Before the pandemic hit, the business travel industry was expected to reach $1.6 trillion in annual spend according to GBTA. The impact of business travel is clear, not only on the economy but also on the environment. Adopting sustainability goals and practices is becoming more and more often a top priority for companies, with their reputations even being at risk based on the environmental choices they make. 

However, while business travel emissions are a major contributor to global warming, it remains essential for many organizations to do business and build relationships in a way that can only be possible face to face. Fortunately, today there are many resources available for business travelers to understand their carbon impact, choose sustainable travel alternatives, and help fight climate change by achieving carbon neutrality.

Measures your organization can take to reduce its environmental impact caused by business travel

Challenging the way things are done and striving for constant improvement is what makes sustainable travel possible. Here are some steps your organization can take in order to implement a more environmentally-friendly travel policy, without compromising the business.

Calculate your business travel carbon footprint

Calculating your organization’s greenhouse gas emissions derived from business travel is a great way to know what the starting point is, as well as to identify which are the largest carbon dioxide emission sources and create an action plan for carbon reduction. 

There are many ways available today to calculate a company’s carbon footprint. From hiring a consultancy firm to using specific tools, the options are there to make this possible for companies of all sizes. When you use TravelPerk’s business travel platform to plan your trips, you can automatically see and track your organization’s carbon footprint derived from corporate travel.

Create a green business travel program

More and more companies are adopting green business travel programs that take the environment into consideration and lay out the actions that the company strives to follow to achieve sustainable travel. When creating a green business travel program, analyzing your carbon footprint and using the data to set emissions reduction targets is the best way to start. 

Based on this data, set clear goals and layout the measures to achieve them, including incentives and restrictions for employees to be more committed to following them. Define how the progress will be monitored and measured, as well as who will be responsible for it. Promoting the plan among employees and educating them on the subject is also key to making sure the green travel program is followed. 

Read more about how to run a sustainable business travel program on our free ebook: click here

Fly in economy class

Did you know that first class and business class seats can generate, on average, up to twice the amount of carbon emissions? This is due to the larger area occupied by these seat classes, as well as the extra weight of the luggage allowance, and other extra features offered.

An easy—as well as cost-effective—way to reduce this type of carbon emissions is to encourage employees to fly economy class. Considering most business trips are domestic or short- to medium-distance, this swap shouldn’t have a major impact on the overall business trip.

Choose low-emission airlines

Not all airlines generate the same amount of carbon emissions, even when flying the same route. Considering the high amount of CO2 generated by flying, when air travel is necessary, we still have a choice to reduce our carbon footprint. 

A great way to put this into practice is to identify which airlines serve the routes your employees usually fly and create a list of the most carbon-friendly ones. Some criteria you can use to identify which airlines are more carbon-friendly are:

  • Amount of CO2 generated by a specific flight and airline. You also have access to this information when you use TravelPerk’s business travel booking platform.
  • If the airline offers the possibility to offset your carbon footprint.
  • If the airline has a sustainability policy, which you can usually find on their website or ask about by email.

Avoid layovers

Another thing to keep in mind when flying for business is that one flight is always better than two! Layovers can add a major amount of carbon emissions to your trip, considering not only the amount of fuel used for takeoff and landing but also that needed to support ground operations and all services related to your short stay in an extra airport.

If avoiding layovers is not an option, you can be more eco-friendly by keeping layovers as short as possible, avoiding hotel stays, and staying inside the airport itself.

Choose sustainable accommodations

Although the main source of carbon emissions during a business trip is air or road travel, accommodation follows right after. With an average of 10 to 13 tonnes of CO2 generated per room per year in the UK, choosing greener accommodation options should be a must when reducing an organization’s carbon footprint from travel.

Hotels usually consume high amounts of energy and produce unnecessary waste as part of their operations. However, there are certifications in place for hotels that adhere to environmentally friendly practices. Apart from these certifications, many hotels have their own green travel initiatives in place.

Consider the greenest form of transport depending on the circumstances

Statistics show that flying generates more CO2 emissions than traveling by train, which is not surprising. However, when it comes to driving, it may come as a surprise that flying can actually be greener in some cases. However, this can vary greatly depending on the route, the type of car, and the amount of people traveling. In any case, if more than one person is traveling, then the amount of emissions released by the car is reduced, and driving is actually a better option than flying.

Considering these facts, using public transport when moving around cities or between cities should always be a priority over flying or driving. In many cases, public transport can even offer a smoother travel experience—think of all the time saved by avoiding traffic jams and not having to look for parking!

Reduce your fuel consumption

We already mentioned the fact that car travel can generate huge amounts of emissions, but what happens when your employees can’t avoid traveling by car? Even then, there are more environmentally-friendly options.

The best would be to make use of renewable energy, whether you decide to replace your company cars with electric models or just rent them. If that’s not possible, you can also consider choosing vehicles with smaller engines, which consume less fuel.

Make use of green travel tax breaks

When implementing a green travel policy, it’s not only about expenses. We’ve already talked about the cost-saving benefits of some eco-friendly travel initiatives, but let’s talk about another very interesting one: benefitting from green tax breaks.

Depending on the country where your organization is based, it may be eligible to receive tax breaks for implementing sustainable initiatives such as buying electric and low-emission vehicles, providing employees with public transport subscriptions, green commute incentives, and donations, just to name a few.

Consider carbon offsetting

Although even the most sustainable travel options generate CO2 emissions, carbon-neutral business travel is still possible. How? By choosing carbon offsetting! This means encouraging a reduction of carbon emissions in order to compensate for emissions generated by you or your company, often in the form of donations.

When there’s no other option, it’s still possible to offset 100% of your emissions related to business travel by using TravelPerk’s travel booking platform and GreenPerk. Automatically track your company’s CO2 emissions generated by business travel, and purchase carbon offsets (or carbon credits) that contribute to nonprofit organizations and green projects. The cost is usually around 4% of the trip cost to offset 100% of each trip’s emissions.

Click here to read more about GreenPerk and make your business travel carbon-neutral!