Business travel: emissions by major global consulting firms down by 46% compared with 2019

July 10, 2024
12 of the 15 companies in the sample have set business travel emissions targets

A new T&E analysis of the business travel emissions of 15 global consulting firms in 2023 reveals that, on average, they have reduced their emissions by 46% compared to 2019. This significant reduction is explained by the fact that most of these firms have set business travel emissions targets over the last few years.

The overall trend is one of reduction in the aftermath of the pandemic where global travel came to a halt, and notably by those who previously were flying the most. However the data shows that consulting companies are slowly creeping back towards pre-Covid levels. 12 of the 15 companies in the sample have set business travel emissions targets. Accenture, KPMG and Swiss company SGS are the three which have failed to do so for now. For the 12 companies with targets, their reduction objectives set a limit as to how much they can increase their flying. But that is not the case for Accenture, KPMG and SGS. 

Global consulting firms have a high responsibility to reduce their business travel: they form a large contingent of companies which before the pandemic were crisscrossing the globe regularly to meet with clients – and travel emissions make up the majority of their emissions. These firms also profile themselves as key advisors on sustainability to some of the world’s largest emitting companies and sectors – so there are clearly high stakes for their credibility in practising what they preach.

“Global consulting firms claim to be expert advisors to clients on how to reduce emissions, so they must lead by example, or risk losing out to competitors.  Top flyers cannot get by without setting targets to keep their flying low.  They have no excuses, as their peers have already shown that it’s a no-brainer to set ambitious targets to reduce the biggest source of your emissions.  What are KPMG and Accenture waiting for?” Denise Auclair, corporate travel manager at Transport & Environment explains.

Consulting giants KPMG and Accenture are among the top 25 flyers without targets in the Travel Smart Ranking, the world’s largest tool for tracking companies  on commitments to reduce and report corporate air travel emissions. On the other hand, peers EY, PwC and Deloitte are much more ambitious, with plans to reduce what is often regarded as ‘the low hanging fruit’ of a company’s climate footprint.  

By not setting targets, the two consulting giants risk quickly rebounding to pre-COVID levels of flying. The Travel Smart Emissions Tracker shows that other top flyers without targets like Siemens and Apple are already on a trajectory to return to their 2019 levels of corporate travel, at only -35% and -31% respectively in 2023.

PwC has embraced the philosophy of maximising digital technologies while getting more from less when flights and physical meetings are required.

EY aims to eliminate one-day travel, and asks employees to schedule multiple meetings at their destination, taking trips that are longer but less frequent. EY also has a carbon budget for employee travel.

The Travel Smart Campaign advocates for keeping travel emissions at 50% below pre-pandemic levels, by reducing frequent flying while making the most of rail journeys and virtual collaboration. Travel Smart Ranking analyses 327 businesses across the world.

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