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Too few Scottish businesses pledge to reduce business flying, new corporate ranking finds 

Published 10 May 2022 by Transform Scotland

Together with Transport & Environment (T&E), Europe’s leading campaign group for clean mobility, Transform Scotland is today launching the Travel Smart campaign to encourage companies to fly less while achieving more.

Transform Scotland and T&E have published a groundbreaking benchmarking of 230 global companies based on their business travel practice. Top companies are defining targets for reducing air travel by 50% or more by 2025, and reporting transparently on their emissions to track progress.

The new ranking of corporate air travel reveals that work is underway to reduce emissions by businesses in Scotland, but more action is needed.

Most business travel, whether by air or land, was suddenly stopped in early 2020 when countries around the world went into lockdown. But as borders are opening up again and restrictions are easing, business travel has begun to pick up again. While coronavirus is beginning to cause less disruption to people’s lives, the climate crisis is only accelerating.

The past two years have shown that many business trips can be replaced by virtual meetings and there is potential to shift from flying to more sustainable options for travel. This ranking therefore comes at a time when many businesses should be readjusting their business travel policies to reduce their company’s carbon emissions. Scottish companies could for example benefit greatly by switching from air to rail for UK business trips.

Performance of Scottish companies in the international ranking of corporate air travel

The ranking, launched as part of T&E’s new Travel Smart campaign, grades 230 US and European companies according to nine indicators, relating to emissions reduction targets, reporting and air travel emissions. The analysis includes four Scottish corporations (39 companies in total from the UK) and sheds light on the significant efforts certain Scottish businesses still have to make to reduce their corporate travel emissions. Only one company gets an “A”, whilst the three others achieve a “C” or “D”.

Bank of Scotland, part of Lloyds Banking Group, is the only Scottish company that achieves the highest possible “A” grade for its corporate travel emissions reduction plans. Lloyds Banking has pledged to hold business travel emissions below 50% of their pre-pandemic levels.

Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Power have made company-wide emissions reductions targets, but haven’t yet committed to reduce corporate air travel emissions by a certain date. Energy giant SSE receives the lowest score, as it reports no specific effort to reduce business travel emissions, nor discloses its air travel emissions.

For many Scottish companies, taking the train instead of flying is a great way to reduce emissions. Matt Finch, UK Director at T&E, observes that “Travelling smart is about being as productive as possible and making every single meeting count. Whilst not all business travel can be avoided, rail is a quick and green alternative to domestic flights and allows you to carry on working on route. Many Scottish companies have already announced targets to cut corporate flying by half but we’d like to see far more commitment to flying less and taking the train more, not just for the sake of the planet, it’s better for business too.”

Transform Scotland spokesperson Marie Ferdelam said: “The pandemic proved that businesses can be as effective and even more efficient by flying less, and some companies, notably Bank of Scotland, are showing that reducing emissions from business flying is entirely possible. Cutting down on business travel makes financial sense for companies. Scots are crying out to reduce our dependence on oil, and smarter travelling is an easy way to do so.”

The rest of the Travel Smart ranking

A company with an “A” score has an absolute reduction commitment for air travel, and some of these companies have committed to a 50% or higher reduction target by 2025. They have been reporting their business or air travel emissions for more than a year, meet the ranking’s highest standard for corporate travel, and set the example for other corporations. Eight companies (3%) in the ranking achieve an “A” grade.

However the Travel Smart Ranking shows that many companies are not yet stepping up to reduce their business travel levels. Out of the 230 companies, 193 fail to act with sufficient speed and ambition to tackle corporate travel emissions. Businesses like Google, Facebook and Microsoft lie in the ranking’s lowest category and must accelerate their transition to becoming smart travellers.

Aviation emissions from business travel

In 2019, business travel accounted for about 15 to 20% of global air travel, [1] or about 154 million MtCO2. But the sector experienced a huge shock with the Covid pandemic and business travel spending declined by 52% in 2020, from 1.4 trillion USD in 2019 to 694 billion USD in 2020. [2]

Companies now have a unique opportunity to lead by innovating new practices, adopting air travel emissions reduction targets and locking in the lower emissions habits they acquired during the pandemic. T&E’s Roadmap to climate neutral aviation for the EU shows that a reduction in corporate travel is the single most effective way to reduce aviation emissions in the short term, where it counts most for the climate. By reducing corporate travel by 50%, we would cut emissions by 32.6 MtCO2 by 2030 in the EU, which is the same as taking 16 million polluting cars off the road. [3]

The Travel Smart campaign

T&E’s Travel Smart campaign, launched with an international coalition of 13 partners including Transform Scotland, asks companies to:

  • Commit publicly to an absolute target of at least 50% reduction in flying of 2019 levels, by 2025 or sooner;
  • Implement reductions in flying and choose other modes of connectivity and transport;
  • Report on progress towards decreased emissions.

See the full international ranking at http://travelsmartcampaign.org.

 

Notes:

[1] McKinsey & Company, The Travel Industry Turned Upside Down Report, September 2020, https://www.mckinsey.com

[2] Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), Business Travel: Full Recovery Expected by 2025, February 1, 2021. https://www.gbta.org/blog/business-travel-full-recovery-expected-by-2025/

[3] Transport & Environment, Roadmap to climate neutral aviation in Europe, 2022, https://www.transportenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/TE-aviation-decarbonisation-roadmap-FINAL.pdf