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How to reduce the carbon footprint of business trips

December 2, 2019 / US

Travel is an inevitable part of the corporate world—and it’s big business. Annual growth in business travel is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 20221, while in the US, personal cars are used for 81% of business trips2. But companies and individuals are becoming more and more aware of the weight of their carbon footprint. How can organizations reduce the carbon footprint of business trips?

5 ways to reduce the carbon footprint of business travel

1. Start with awareness

To make the first step to reduce the carbon footprint of corporate travel, people need to have awareness so they can adjust their habits. Many companies have a strong role to play in driving this change. It starts with being educated about the environmental impacts of different forms of transport. Having a good understanding of the issues will help employees make informed choices about the way they move around.

In many cases, a train trip is a more sustainable option than a short-haul flight. For example, taking the train from London to Paris emits 90% less carbon dioxide than a short-haul flight3. And when you consider airport check-in and security processes, flying from NYC to D.C. could take longer than going by train. Companies should clearly list transportation options in their corporate travel policies and provide guidelines about when to choose one mode over another.

2. Introduce green commuting options

Business travel starts with the journey to the office—it’s not limited to external meetings. That’s why companies should also pay attention to the daily commute of their employees.

Strong CSR and travel & expense policies can impact the attitudes and behaviours of people in an organisation. If companies introduce office bike storage, ridesharing options, and public transport allowances, then they can encourage employees to take greener journeys.

How to reduce the carbon footprint of business trips

3. Consider the alternatives to business travel

Face-to-face meetings have their benefits, but it’s important to think about their cost, time, and environmental impact. The purpose of business travel needs to make sense. Does the meeting or course really require a trip? Can you achieve the same outcome if it’s done online?

One of the questions business travelers ask themselves on the road is whether a business trip is a good use of their time. An international flight for a 30-minute meeting might not be the best use of resources. If the same goals can be met via video conferencing, then maybe you should reconsider booking that flight. Rethinking one’s movements isn’t about reducing the scope—it’s about becoming aware that there are greener alternatives.

4. Choose eco-friendly suppliers

Transport and accommodation make up the bulk of business travel expenses. But flights and rental cars also produce a lot of CO2 emissions, while hotels consume a lot of energy and create waste. Defining preferred eco-friendly suppliers in a travel policy can help support efforts to be green and reduce the environmental impact of business travel.

One way to find eco-friendly suppliers is to find out who has been officially recognized for their efforts. The SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) is an annual review of sustainability across several industries. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the international accreditation body for sustainable travel, provides certification to hotels and other accommodation providers who have sustainable operations4.

5. Contribute to carbon offset programmes

There are times when business travel can’t be avoided. Maybe it’s a must-attend conference or a key meeting with a CEO. In cases like these, organisations have the opportunity to neutralise the carbon footprint of business trips via carbon offsetting, which is the practice of contributing funds to projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Many airlines have carbon offset programmes, with offsets on a per-flight basis to support initiatives for the development of clean energy or reforestation. Companies can also invest in offset project portfolios if they want to offset their business travel on a larger scale. Calculate your carbon emissions and do your research before choosing what works best for your company.

What is Uber doing to reduce the carbon footprint of ground travel?

What is Uber doing to reduce the carbon footprint of ground travel? Man using the Uber app

Over 15 million Uber trips happen every day. As a global mobility platform, we have a responsibility to find more sustainable ways to move people.

  • We believe that the future of mobility is electric, which is why we launched Uber Green. It’s a pilot project in select cities that offers rides in hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • UberPool gives people the option to share their rides. 20% of all trips are UberPool trips in cities where it is available. In 2017, 35 million riders took UberPool and Express Pool trips. If these riders had instead driven by themselves, cities might have seen an additional 314 million vehicle miles and 82,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
  • In several major cities around the world, Uber users can now plan their journey by public transit with real-time information directly integrated into the app.
  • JUMP bicycles and electric scooters are also available directly in the Uber app in several cities in Europe and North America, which can help employees make short-distance journeys.

Having a range of transport options can help reduce the carbon footprint of business trips. When people use the Uber app, they have efficient and environmentally friendly options at their fingertips.

Summing up

Organizations who want to reduce the carbon footprint of business trips know it’s not an easy feat. But taking steps to create awareness, encourage greener behavior, and support sustainable partners all help contribute to a greener world.

1GBTA Forecasts Global Business Travel Spend Will Reach $1.7T by 2022, Business Travel News (BTN)
2U.S. Business Travel, Bureau of Transportation Statistics
3Planes vs. trains: The environmental impact of taking a train compared to flying, Bookaway
4Why Become a Certified Hotel/Accommodation, GSTC