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How To Reduce Business Travel Emissions: A More Sustainable Return to Business Travel

Article after article after article are making one thing clear: business travel is bound to return, but it won’t look the same. Issues like who should be traveling and how to reduce business travel emissions are becoming hotly debated.

Companies are being confronted with facts about business travel that were previously suspected but never confirmed – such as there are significant efficiency gains to be made, and that video calling is an effective alternative for many meetings.

In parallel, the slowing-down of industries and increasing urgency of human-induced climate change pressures businesses into a more sustainable return to operations, and business travel is no exception to this push.

With interest in a sustainable return to business travel rising, the issue remains that many companies still lack a clear strategy for addressing their travel-related emissions. To help solve this problem, we’ve highlighted 3 ways to reduce business travel emissions.

Fly Less

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the best one. If you want to cut your company’s business travel emissions, you should fly less. This can be achieved by being strategic about who is traveling and why, relying on video meetings, as well as promoting and rewarding alternative modes of travel.

The pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for businesses to assess which business trips were essential to their operations and which could be left behind. The New York Times put it best: for many trips, businesses are realizing “this could have been a Zoom meeting”.

Video conferencing companies have proven indispensable in 2020, with Zoom growing 40% in one year. Organizations should take advantage of the rapid adoption and acceptance of video conferencing as a viable form to communicate and seriously consider it as an alternative to business travel.

At times, face-to-face contact, and therefore travel, provides a significant value to a company’s activities. For those occasions, check if finding an alternative to flying is an option. Especially for shorter distances, alternative modes of transport like trains are preferable to catching a flight.
Carbon Offsets and Credits

Despite the alternatives, sometimes flying is the only way to get from A to B. A popular solution for corporations is to use carbon offsets or carbon credits to compensate for their flight-related emissions out-of-sector.

Carbon offset schemes let companies balance out their own carbon footprints by investing in environmental and social projects around the world that are designed to reduce future emissions. These projects can vary widely in type and scope, although the most well-known are projects that plant an equivalent number of trees to offset the carbon impact.

Carbon credits are like carbon offsets in that they also represent the emission of a certain amount of carbon in the atmosphere. According to Carbon Fund, ‘’A carbon credit is an instrument that represents ownership of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent that can be traded, sold, or retired.’’ A carbon offset, on the other hand, ‘’is a very real reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and results in the generation of a carbon credit, but from […] projects like building a wind farm, supporting truck stop electrification projects, planting trees or preserving forests’’, which counterbalances the use of fossil fuels.

In addition to that, South Pole argues that carbon credits ensure that emissions reduction is real, measurable, permanent, additional, independently verified, and unique.

Companies specializing in coordinating carbon offset projects or carbon credits aren’t just planting trees. They’re going beyond that and giving their customers the option of investing in a wide portfolio of projects. These include, but are not limited to, investments in solar, wind, biomass, cookstoves, and reforestation, in areas that would benefit from further environmental and social development.

Fly on SAF

If you’re looking for a way to reduce your flight-related business travel emissions in-sector, you can also consider joining a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) program .

What is a SAF program? A SAF program is a program that allows members to commit to flying on sustainable aviation fuel to reduce their emissions. As a substitute for fossil kerosene produced from sustainable resources, sustainable aviation fuel can significantly reduce lifecycle GHG emissions compared to fossil kerosene. In the case of SkyNRG’s Board Now program, you are also actively supporting the growth of an industry that provides an alternative to fossil kerosene, as your commitment helps build the business case for new production facilities.

While ensuring that fossil fuel is being replaced, you and your colleagues might not physically have sustainable aviation fuel transported to the aircraft you’ll be flying with. To minimize supply chain emissions and costs, SAF purchased through Board Now uses a Book & Claim model. This means that the equivalent amount of the SAF purchased will be sent to the nearest airport and introduced into that airport tanking system. A more in-depth explanation for the Book & Claim system can be found here.

SAF is currently the main way to reduce aviation emissions at their source, and is therefore seen as one of the key solutions for decarbonizing the aviation industry.

According a study published by McKinsey, Scope 3 emissions, which include business travel, can make up to 50% of a company’s indirect emissions. And with indirect emissions sometimes being ten times that of direct emissions, companies should seriously consider effectively reducing them.

To answer the question of how to reduce business travel emissions, corporates shouldn’t be choosing between flying less, carbon offsets or credits, or by joining a SAF program. A combination of all three is what shows real commitment to reducing your flight-related business travel emissions carbon footprint.

Want to learn more about SAF? Be sure to get your basics with our Sustainable Aviation Fuel Glossary and Beginner’s Guide.

If you’re interested in how SAF can help reduce your corporate travel emissions, we’ve got you covered.