A campaign led by European NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) shows 85% of global companies analysed in its 2023 Travel Smart Ranking do not yet have credible plans to reduce their corporate flying emissions. T&E and a coalition of partners are campaigning to persuade companies to cut these emissions by 50% or more by 2025 or sooner from 2019 levels but only four out of the 322 businesses in the ranking have committed to do so. It says aviation is the most climate-intensive form of business travel, which accounts for 15-20% of global air travel emissions – around 154 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. If just 10% of the biggest emitting companies analysed set the 50% target, this would go halfway to achieving its campaign target, say the campaigners. The ranking tracks and evaluates commitments, emissions and reporting performance from companies across 17 countries in Europe, India and the United States, and, for the first time, the assessment includes results for non-CO2 emissions. The four companies achieving its ‘gold standard’ ranking are Novo Nordisk, Swiss Re, Fidelity International and ABN Amro.
The Travel Smart campaign was launched in 2022 with a ranking of 230 companies, increasing to 322 for the 2023 edition. It ranks companies according to 10 indicators relating to air travel emissions, reduction targets and reporting, and are given an A, B, C or D grade. In this year’s ranking, 11 companies qualified for an A grade, 38 a B, whilst the vast majority received a C (212) or a D (61). It finds 40 companies report all greenhouse gas emissions associated with corporate flights, with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Pfizer and consulting companies Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte leading the way by considering the full impact of flying in their reporting.
Netflix, Lush, Siemens, Spotify and Amazon are at the bottom of the ranking with Volkswagen, KPMG and Johnson & Johnson being the top three emitters without a target to reduce their travel emissions.
Commenting on the ranking, T&E’s Corporate Travel Manager, Denise Auclair, said: “Corporates are turning a blind eye to the harms done by flying for work. Most companies are taking little to no action on business flying, which renders any other travel targets meaningless in the context of tackling climate change. Only a few frontrunners align with the science by reporting non-CO2 emissions – the hidden part of the iceberg of aviation’s full climate impact.”
The 10 biggest flyers without a target collectively accounted for 3.5 million tonnes of air travel emissions in 2019, or 20% of emissions from companies in the ranking. In 2020 and 2021, says the report accompanying the ranking, corporate air travel emissions decreased by 64% and 70% respectively, mostly as a result of the Covid-19 travel restrictions. It points to analysis showing these emissions have not rebounded in the same way as commercial aviation emissions since companies have innovated practices to perform with less business flying.
For the critical decade until 2030, the best way to reduce aviation emissions is to fly less as the timing for scale-up of sustainable fuels and zero-emissions aircraft is currently post-2030 and offsetting cannot substitute for reducing emissions, says T&E. It calls on companies to set ambitious targets to reduce corporate travel emissions, switch from air to rail travel where possible and privilege video conferencing as a substitute for reducing emissions.
“The biggest emitters have a disproportionate role to play in reducing their corporate flying emissions and the means to achieve this are more accessible than ever before,” said Auclair.
Governments too can have a role in reducing corporate travel emissions, says the ranking’s report, by extending reporting requirements on companies’ business travel emissions. “Legal requirements for companies to define climate transition plans and emissions reductions targets are still in the starting blocks, which partly explains the lack of business air travel targets,” it says. “A faster and more specific deployment of target setting requirements will be necessary.”
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