'Travel Smart' is a global campaign led by Transport & Environment (T&E) and Stand.earth within a coalition of partners across Europe, North America and Asia aiming at reducing air corporate travel emissions, as the most effective way to significantly reduce aviation’s climate impacts in the present decade.
The campaign comes at a crucial time for the direction of corporate travel, as business flying is starting to pick up post-pandemic. The pandemic has offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lock in reductions in global corporate flying. For the critical decade until 2030, the best way to reduce aviation emissions is to fly less, as the timing for scale-up of sustainable fuels and zero-emissions aircraft is currently post-2030, and offsetting has shown to be ineffective.
Therefore, the main objective of the campaign is to reduce corporate air travel emissions by 50% or more from 2019 levels. This can also send signals to industry and other actors, and help to spark changes that will contribute to an acceleration in clean technology innovation and scale-up. Sustainable aviation is possible, and flying less now can make a big contribution towards getting on the right path.
We believe that companies have a unique opportunity to lead this change. Business travelers make up some 12% of passengers, but up to 75% of revenues on certain flights, so their choices have important leverage on the aviation industry. It is time for corporate leaders and employees to put theory into practice, adapting corporate policies to the new paradigm of flying less and achieving more. Governments also have a role in this trend that is here to stay.
Between 2005 and 2019, aviation traffic in Europe grew 67%, causing its emissions to grow at a time when they need to be falling- and emissions are projected to grow by a further 38% by 2050. This must stop.
So we have to act now if we want to reduce aviation emissions before 2030, and eliminate its climate impact by 2050. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for rapid, deep cuts, with the next three years being crucial, and reducing long-haul aviation providing the greatest potential to avoid emissions.
The pandemic saw the number of flights fall dramatically and we learned about how we could live and work in better ways. With considerably less flying, companies continued to deliver on projects and maintain connections with customers and other business partners.
In the current context of the urgency of reducing oil dependency, one of the most feasible ways to do so is to maintain lower levels of flying experienced during the pandemic. Of the 64.4 Mtoe reduction in total EU oil consumption in 2020 compared to 2019, 37% was due to the drop in international aviation, despite only representing 6.3% of transport oil consumption. The International Energy Agency’s 10-point plan to reduce oil use highlights the significant contribution reducing business flights, and using high-speed trains instead of planes for business travel, can make.
Frequent flyers – less than 1% of the world’s population – account for more than 50% of aviation emissions. Corporate travel is one of the biggest drivers of aviation demand. If we reduce this by 50%, it would cut emissions by 32.6 MtCO2 by 2030 in Europe, which is the same as taking 16 million polluting cars off the road. Smarter flying is something we can all do. The idea of sending workers to the four corners of the planet looks increasingly outdated and inefficient.
This is not about stopping flying, it’s about flying less and achieving more. We can substitute long-haul corporate flights for virtual collaboration, and shift from regional air travel to high-speed rail.
‘Travel Smart’ is a global campaign led by Transport & Environment (T&E) and Stand.earth within a coalition of partners across Europe, North America and Asia.
The ‘Travel Smart’ ranking, launched as part of the campaign, grades 230 US and European companies according to eight indicators, relating to emissions reduction targets, reporting and air travel emissions. It reveals that work is underway to reduce emissions by businesses, but more action is needed.
The Travel Smart Ranking shows that many companies are not yet stepping up to reduce their business travel levels. Out of the 230 companies, 193 fail to act with sufficient speed and ambition to tackle corporate travel emissions. Businesses like Volkswagen, Accenture and BP lie in the ranking’s lowest category and must accelerate their transition to becoming smart travelers, T&E says.
A company with an A score has an air travel or business reduction target of -50% or greater with timelines for achievement before 2025. These companies have been reporting their business or air travel emissions for more than a year. The businesses meet the ranking’s highest standard for corporate travel and set the example for other corporations to step up to. Eight companies (3%) in the ranking, including four from the UK, reach that score.
The pandemic sparked innovation to create changes in the ways we work almost overnight. This led to a cultural shift for workplaces, where employees are realizing the benefits of a more flexible working routine, creating pressure internally for change.
Externally, companies are increasingly being scrutinized and measured on their sustainability credentials by the public and government. The campaign is working with corporate leaders and employees, policymakers and other concerned actors to support new and better ways of connecting, and flying less while achieving more.
Working life looks very different on this side of the pandemic. The benefits of reducing long-haul business flying and its disproportionate impacts have never been clearer. But in case more convincing is needed, we have the evidence to back it up. This is how you Travel Smart.
The campaign’s ranking brings for the first time the impact of corporate travel and long-haul flying into the public sphere. It incentivizes change by establishing benchmarks on company travel emissions, and works to improve the transparency needed so as to track progress.
Businesses can make use of the unique opportunity to influence the acceleration of sustainable aviation, and to reduce their corporate emissions, by developing target-based policy, leading the way to achieve the halving of global emissions needed by 2030.
The campaign connects corporate leaders with the necessary tools to enable change, improve their standing, innovate their policies, and invest in their reputation. And governments can play their part to ensure that air travel targets are required in corporate climate plans and emissions reporting.
Sharing stories from businesses who have already adapted to the changes and seen the benefits, the campaign inspires companies and their employees to introduce a new culture of purposeful and effective corporate travel, building momentum across their networks to create lasting change.