The pandemic has upturned long-held ideas about the necessity of air travel and the inevitability of travel-related greenhouse gas emissions. We are now in a moment, possibly brief, where the crisis of a global pandemic has created the opportunity for companies to realise that by reducing corporate air travel they can take responsibility for their emissions while reducing their costs. In the current context of the urgency of reducing oil dependency, one of the most feasible ways to do so is to maintain lower levels of flying experienced during the pandemic. The International Energy Agency’s 10-point plan to reduce oil use highlights the significant contribution reducing business flights can make. This mutually beneficial scenario is made possible by, among other things, the necessity of working from home in the last few years. The ease by which many employees and customers have adapted to being home and flying less reveals that those long-held ideas no longer stand, and that curbing our flying habits to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is not only possible, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lock in reductions in global corporate flying.
This study, based on data collected to the best of Stand.Earth Research Group and Transport & Environment (T&E’s) ability, has scraped the surface of this new reality, revealing that company commitments and reporting are still in early stages of development. Current targets are not yet sufficient to reduce GHG emissions in line with 1.5°C warming scenarios and reporting is fuzzy and unstandardized. Nevertheless, there is room for optimism: a meaningful and long-term reduction target of 50% in corporate air travel emissions is possible in this decade and the companies that are most needed for this to happen have the means and the recent experience with corporate air travel reductions to achieve this. Over a dozen leading businesses have pledged to reduce their travel emissions by 50% or more, while twice that number have committed to pledges of less than 50%.
This study aims to shed light on where companies are in terms of their business travel commitments, air travel reduction targets, timelines, and reporting. By creating a database of companies using air travel for work, the study is able to compare commitments, look at emissions over time, and rank companies based on their progress and performance. The final product is a ranking of 230 companies based in Europe and the US. Each company has been attributed a final grade of A to D, according to their business travel reduction targets and reporting levels.