Work travel can have a significant impact on the environment, and it’s becoming more important for organisations to implement plans for greener business travel. All forms of overland and air travel have an impact, but flying remains the most problematic. According to the International Air Transport Association, commercial aviation contributes as much as 2% to global carbon emissions.
There are several ways to reduce a business’s carbon footprint when it comes to travel. These nine tips are a great place to start.
Your tips for greener business travel
1. Reduce commuting by using technology
About one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2014 came from transportation, according to research by the World Wildlife Fund. One of the key ways to combat this is to use technology that allows for seamless online meetings, communication and collaboration. Although it may not always be practical, businesses that integrate these tools into their workflow can drastically reduce the number of work trips.
2. Consider alternatives to flights
Reducing the number of commercial flights is one of the best ways to practice greener business travel. Domestic and long haul flights are responsible for the majority of travel-related carbon dioxide emissions. Trains are almost always more environmentally friendly than planes. Tools like EcoPassenger can help businesses to calculate carbon emissions from specific journeys, and thus help organisations to make more informed business travel decisions.
3. Fly direct
If flying to a meeting is unavoidable, it helps to take a direct flight to the destination. Flying via transportation hubs may be more cost-effective, but taking two flights instead of one is significantly less efficient. That’s because there are double the amounts of take-offs, landings, and taxiing.
4. Pack light and fly economy
Encouraging employees to pack light and fly economy class will help to reduce the carbon footprint of a passenger on any one flight. Packing a single carry-on bag is not only more convenient for travellers, but it may also have a positive impact on the environment. Simply put, the lighter the plane, the less fuel it will burn.
Economy class is also the most environmentally responsible class to fly. That’s because business and first-class seats take up more space and provide transportation to fewer passengers. According to the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, emissions for business class passengers are three times higher than that of economy, and four times higher for first-class flyers.
5. Schedule business travel for multiple trips
Rather than embark on several back-and-forth business trips per year, companies that have greener business travel footprints often spend a lot of time carefully scheduling meetings to reduce the overall distance travelled. Although one long business trip that includes several cities and multiple meetings can be tiring, it is a more financially and environmentally savvy way to travel.
6. Choose airlines with better environmental records
Not all airlines are created equal, even when it comes to environmental impact. Although many advertise their green credentials with pride (and neglect to mention that flying is, in fact, detrimental to the environment), some airlines are more CO2 efficient than others. There are several organisations that index airline environmental credentials, including Atmosfair, which ranks the carbon efficiency of the world’s 200 largest airlines.
7. Calculate individual carbon emissions, and purchase carbon offsets
The first step to offsetting carbon emissions is to know exactly how much a specific trip will impact on the environment. The International Civil Aviation Organization can help with this. They have a carbon emissions calculator that helps to estimate how much carbon dioxide a single flight will emit.
With this in mind, it’s possible to purchase carbon offsets. Most major airlines now offer this as an option to purchase at checkout. There are also independent companies that offer this service, including Gold Standard, Cool Effect, and Green-e.
8. Stay in eco-friendly accommodation
It’s easy to only focus your greener business travel habits towards flights and transportation, but accommodation can also play a role. It helps to choose accommodation that is more environmentally friendly. Several hotels are now working to conserve power and water and implement best environmental practices. Many countries have governing bodies that evaluate a hotel’s environmental claims. It pays to do some research into these before booking an overnight stay.
9. Pool cars or use greener ground transportation
Uber for Business is a great way to streamline business travel, and it comes with several environmentally-friendly features. Uber offers an option to carpool in many cities around the world, which is an environmentally and financially efficient way to get from door to door while on a business trip.
There are many green initiatives underway. Uber Green allows users to select electric vehicles in certain cities, while JUMP brings on-demand electric bikes and scooters to cities through the Uber app. Uber has also partnered with transit agencies around the world, launching Uber Transit in 2019. It allows public transport riders to plan their trip, and in some cases pay the fare, directly in Uber’s app.
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Although implementing greener business travel habits may be complex and can introduce some inconveniences in the short term, the long-term payoffs are significant. Some steps may take more time and greater sacrifices. But others—like sharing a journey with other riders, or carefully selecting partners based on their green credentials—require only marginal shifts in company policy. Although the changes might initially seem small, together they can add up to make a marked difference on the environment.