Back in business: Are companies on track to reduce corporate flights?

septiembre 19, 2023
Annual report season is over and emissions reporting is trickling through. Data on business travel emissions suggests that trends are changing. Have companies bounced back to pre-COVID levels of flying? Are companies meeting their business travel reduction targets?

Among a spread of forty multinationals from eight countries, our new Travel Smart Emissions Tracker finds no business has returned to pre-COVID levels of flying. This data shows that companies have learnt to operate with less flying and more sustainable means of travel and collaboration. Some analysts have argued that recovery in business travel has stalled because of rising prices of flights and increasing pressure to meet company-wide climate targets. But it could also be seen as a positive learning from the Covid crisis.

If aviation is to meet its net-zero goal by 2050, Transport & Environment research has found that business travel must be reduced by 50% of 2019 levels in this decade, with immediate cuts needed by 2025 in light of the intensifying climate crisis. Is this yet another unrealistic climate target for companies? It doesn’t seem so, as over 25 of the companies in the list are on track to meet this goal. 

SAP is top of the list, recording a -86% reduction in corporate flying in 2022. Other success stories include consulting giant like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) which has reduced their business flying by 76% and 75% respectively. Whilst the consulting branch is notorious for its excessive flying, such reductions are a positive sign of change. On the other hand, the likes of Shell, L’Oréal, PepsiCo and Johnson & Johnson are already edging close to their 2019 levels of flying. 

For companies wanting to reduce their climate footprint and especially that of their corporate travel, they should follow those leading companies with targets. The Travel Smart ranking – with its overview of 320 companies from across the world – found that over 50 companies have set targets to reduce business travel emissions. These trendsetters now include Michelin, France’s leading tyres manufacturer, with a 30% reduction target by 2025. Other global companies are even more ambitious, already planning to maintain halved emissions this year and next. 

This should be a priority, especially for those companies who have successfully managed to reduce their flying. This is the case for SAP, IBM and Siemens, among others.  They should follow the example of some of their peers like Pfizer and Swiss Re who have set ambitious milestones. 

Tackling business travel – whether a large or small source of company emissions – is significant. It fits into the wider goal of reducing the emissions of the very polluting aviation sector, where technology is not yet available at scale to reduce emissions. Business travel represents close to 20% of global air travel and companies should act as a positive lever for change in the sector. 


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