Nearly a quarter of UK multinationals present credible plans to reduce corporate flying

März 15, 2023
Ten UK companies have set a target on business travel emissions

Nearly a quarter of British companies have set ambitious targets to reduce corporate travel emissions, reveals the second edition of a ranking on business travel by the Travel Smart Campaign. These include AstraZeneca, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC and consulting giants EY, PwC and Deloitte. But of the 42 British companies in the ranking, over thirty are yet to set targets to reduce business flying emissions. 

At the global level, only 50 companies out of 322 in the ranking have a target to reduce business travel emissions. Of the companies who have targets, only four companies receive the “gold standard”, i.e. report air travel emissions and commit to reducing them by 50% or more, by 2025 or sooner. These are Novo Nordisk (Pharmaceuticals, Denmark), Swiss Re (Finance, Switzerland), Fidelity International (Finance, UK) and ABN Amro (Finance, Netherlands).

In the first ever overview of reporting of non-CO2 emissions related to business flying, the ranking finds that eleven British companies are leading the way by reporting all greenhouse gas emissions associated with corporate flights. AstraZeneca, HSBC, Deloitte and NatWest are among those who set the example by considering the full impact of flying in their reporting. 

The climate impact of business flying extends further than CO2 emissions. On top of CO2, aircraft engines emit other gases – nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and water – and particulate matter (soot).  These are commonly referred to as non-CO2 emissions, and it is estimated that they account for two thirds of total climate warming from flying. Yet only very few companies reflect the total impact of business flights by accounting for non-CO2 effects. 

Michael Solomon Williams, Campaigns Manager at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This ranking shows that some UK companies are leading the way when it comes to reducing emissions from corporate travel, but many are lagging behind. To tackle climate change and address a corporate culture that often never questions flying, more companies need to take steps to reduce the number of unnecessary business flights and replace them with virtual meetings or rail travel where possible.” 

Florence Long, Communications Officer at AEF added: “Only a few frontrunners in the ranking are reporting non-CO2 emissions from flying. This needs to change. Reporting non-CO2 should become the standard so that aviation’s full climate impact is made clear.” 

Elspeth Wray, spokesperson for Transform Scotland, said: “If companies are really serious about tackling climate change then they must fly less. Leading companies such as Lloyds Banking Group and AstraZeneca have shown that it’s possible to cut emissions from business travel whilst succeeding commercially. Businesses that don’t act will increasingly be challenged for failing to follow their environmental rhetoric with concerted action to cut emissions.”

KPMG and Shell are the top emitters of the Travel Smart Ranking in the UK, without a target to reduce their travel emissions. Neither of these two companies have set targets to reduce corporate travel emissions. But the analysis shows that setting such targets is possible and necessary, as companies of similar size and sector like Deloitte have done so. 

The study shows that if 10% of companies – the biggest emitters in the ranking – set 50% reduction targets, this would go half way towards achieving the global target of 50% reduction in corporate air travel emissions by 2025. Reducing aviation emissions is now more crucial than ever, if we are to stay within 1.5°C of global warming.

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 cannot substitute for reducing emissions. 

The Travel Smart Campaign calls upon companies to set ambitious targets to reduce corporate travel emissions, switch from air to rail travel where possible, and use video conferencing as a substitute to long-haul flying. 

Note to editors:

Transport & Environment, together with a coalition of global partners, launched the Travel Smart Campaign in 2022 with a yearly edition of a corporate ranking on sustainable business travel practices. The Travel Smart Campaign engages businesses with the objective to reduce corporate travel emissions by 50% or more of pre-Covid levels by 2025 or sooner.​

The Travel Smart Ranking  ranks 322 US, European and Indian companies according to 10 indicators, relating to air travel emissions, reduction targets and reporting. Top global flyers from the 17 countries of the ranking represent a sizable portion of business travel worldwide. The analysis sheds light on the significant efforts certain global businesses have still to make to reduce their corporate travel emissions. Companies are given an A, B, C or D grade. In this year’s edition of the ranking, 11 companies qualified for an A grade, 38 a B, whilst the overwhelming majority received a C (212) and 61 companies saw a D grade next to their name. 

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