Only one in six companies have set targets to reduce emissions from staff business travel

15 March, 2023

A high majority of global companies are failing to set ambitious targets to reduce corporate travel emissions, according to the second edition of a ranking on business travel by The Travel Smart Campaign.

A huge 85% of global companies don't have credible plans to reduce corporate flying emissions.

The 2023 Travel Smart Ranking measures efforts made by global companies towards reducing corporate air travel emissions, tracking their commitment, emissions and reporting performance.

The yearly ranking is published by the Travel Smart campaign, a global campaign which seeks to get companies to reduce business flying emissions by -50% or more from 2019 levels, by 2025 or sooner.

Only 50 companies out of 322 have set targets to reduce business travel emissions. Of the companies who have targets, only four companies were noted as "gold standard", i.e. reporting air travel emissions and a commitment to reducing them by 50% or more, by 2025 or sooner. These are Novo Nordisk (Pharmaceuticals, Denmark), Swiss Re (Finance, Switzerland), Fidelity International (Finance, United Kingdom) and ABN Amro (Finance, Netherlands).

Efforts to reduce corporate flying emissions are rare (number of companies by their business travel emissions commitment and reporting)

While measuring and reporting seems to be a widespread practice, actually committing to reducing emissions is still residual. The research observes only 16% of companies provide air travel emissions specifically, despite this being the most climate-intensive form of business travel, estimated to account for about 15-20% of air travel emissions globally and 25-30% at European level.

The climate impact of business flying extends further than CO2 emissions

On top of CO2, aircraft engines emit other gases - nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and water - and particulate matter (soot). These are commonly referred to as non-CO2 emissions, and it is estimated that they account for two thirds of total climate warming from flying. Yet only very few companies reflect the total impact of business flights by accounting for non-CO2 effects.

An overview of reporting of non-CO2 emissions related to business flying finds that 40 companies are leading the way by reporting all greenhouse gas emissions associated with corporate flights. Pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Pfizer and consulting companies Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte set the example by considering the full impact of flying in their reporting.

Corporates are turning blind eye to the harms done by flying for work

Corporates are "turning a blind eye to the harms done by flying for work," according to Denise Auclair, corporate travel manager at Transport & Environment, with most companies taking "little to no action on business flying." This renders any other travel targets "meaningless in the context of tackling climate change," he notes.

"Only few frontrunners align with science by reporting non-CO2 emissions - the hidden part of the iceberg of aviation's full climate impact," adds the corporate travel manager.

The biggest flyers have the highest share of responsibility

A small group of well-known companies have a bigger share of emissions than the rest of the companies in the ranking, according to Travel Smart. Its calculations shows that 10% of companies committing to -50% targets can go half the way in achieving the global target of -50% by 2025 compared to 2019.

However, it notes, too many of these big emitters don't have specific business travel reduction targets. The ten biggest flyers without a target, i.e. Volkswagen, KPMG International, Johnson & Johnson, Accenture, Siemens, IBM, Microsoft, Alphabet (parent company of Google), Merck & Co. and SAP collectively accounted for 3.5 MtCO2 of air travel emissions in 2019, or 20% of emissions from companies in the ranking.