Too few UK businesses pledge to reduce business flying, new corporate ranking finds
10 May 2022
A new T&E ranking of corporate air travel reveals that work is underway to reduce emissions by businesses, but more action is needed.
Four UK finance and consulting majors (Legal & General Group, Fidelity International, Lloyds Banking and Ernst & Young) rank highest for their corporate travel emissions reduction plans. Lloyds Banking has pledged to reduce business travel by 50 per cent by 2021 and Fidelity International by the same amount by 2024.
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, which includes 39 UK businesses, sheds light on the significant efforts certain UK businesses have still to make to reduce their corporate travel emissions. Only eleven companies get the two highest scores, whilst 28 do not meet sufficient criteria and fall behind on targets or reporting of business flying.
The likes of Vodafone, Tesco and Barclays have all made company-wide emissions reductions targets but no commitment to reduce corporate air travel emissions by a certain date. They could be encouraged to make ambitious business travel commitments in line with the reduction they experienced in 2020, helping to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5°C warming scenarios. The giants BP, Unilever and others receive the lowest score, as they make no specific effort to reduce business travel emissions, nor disclose their air travel emissions.
Matt Finch, UK director at T&E, said: “The pandemic proved that businesses can be as effective and even more efficient by flying less and reducing their emissions at the same time. Whilst some companies, notably EY and Lloyds, are showing that reducing emissions from business flying is entirely possible, others like Vodafone and Tesco are dragging their feet. Cutting down on business travel makes financial sense for companies. Brits are crying out to reduce our dependence on oil, and smarter traveling is an easy way to do so.”
A company with an A score has an absolute reduction commitment for air travel, some of which have committed to a 50 per cent or higher reduction target by 2025. These companies have been reporting their business or air travel emissions for more than a year. The businesses meet the ranking’s highest standard for corporate travel and set the example for other corporations. Eight companies (three per cent) in the ranking, including four from the UK, reach that score.
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, Microsoft and Facebook lie in the ranking’s lowest category and must accelerate their transition to becoming smart travellers, T&E says.
Transport & Environment, and a coalition of 13 partners, have launched the Travel Smart Campaign and a new corporate ranking at a crucial time for the travel industry, as business flying is starting to pick up post-pandemic. In 2019, business travel accounted for about 15 to 20 per cent of air travel, or about 154 million MtCO2, which is equivalent to the emissions of 75 million cars, more than twice the UK car fleet. But the sector experienced a huge shock with the Covid pandemic and business travel spending declined by 52 per cent in 2020, from 1.4 trillion USD in 2019 to 694 billion USD in 2020.
Companies now have a unique opportunity to lead by innovating new practices, adopt air travel emissions reduction targets and lock in the lower emissions habits they acquired during the pandemic. T&E’s Roadmap to climate neutral aviation showed that a reduction in corporate travel was 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 per cent, we would cut emissions by 32.6 MtCO2 by 2030 in Europe, which is the same as taking 16 million polluting cars off the road.
T&E’s new Travel Smart campaign asks companies to:
- Commit publicly to an absolute target of at least 50 per cent 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.
Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive at Campaign for Better Transport added: “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 UK 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.”
Marie Ferdelman, Policy Officer at Transform Scotland, concluded: “Reducing business flying is critical now more than ever, as the International Energy Agency points out in their 10-point plan to reduce oil dependency. Many businesses thrived during the pandemic, despite lower levels of flying. A significant reduction of 50 per cent of flying for business purposes is feasible in the short term, based on the notable changes witnessed in 2020.”
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2. McKinsey & Company, The Travel Industry Turned Upside Down Report, September 2020.
4. Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), Business Travel: Full Recovery Expected by 2025, February 1, 2021.
5. Transport & Environment, Roadmap to climate neutral aviation in Europe, 2022
6. Average emissions of an EU car estimated to 2.03 tCO2/year, based on the:
7. Campaign for Better Transport operates in England and Wales. Campaign for Better Transport’s vision is for all communities to have access to high quality, sustainable transport that meets their needs, improves quality of life and protects the environment. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).