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Corporates tackling air emissions identified

A new study by campaign group Transport & Environment has identified the companies it says are taking the most significant steps towards reducing their carbon emissions from corporate air travel.

Eight of the 230 European and US companies ranked in the report were awarded an ‘A’ grade by the organisation, with Danish pharmaceutical and biotech company Novo Nordisk achieving the highest overall score (11 out of a maximum 12.5). The company intends to cut its absolute air travel-related emissions in half by 2025.

Finance companies fared well, with Swiss Re (10 points), Legal & General (10), Fidelity International (10), Zurich Insurance Group (9.5), Lloyds Banking Group (9.5) and Credit Agricole (9.5) all also achieving an A grade, together with consulting company EY (9.5). The full report can be viewed here.

Scores were weighted towards those companies that report on and have set goals specifically in relation to their air travel emissions – as opposed to more generic business travel emissions reduction goals or company-wide targets – and that have set large, near-term targets to cut those emissions. T&E believes air travel reduction targets are “the gold standard” for corporates setting out sustainability policies.

industry leaders

The companies best targeting air travel emissions according to Transport & Environment’s Travel Smart study
(grade and score in brackets)

1. Novo Nordisk (A/11)
2. Swiss Re (A/10)
3. Legal & General (A/10)
4. Fidelity International (A/10)
5. Zurich Insurance (A/9.5)
6. Lloyds Banking (A/9.5)
7. Ernst & Young (A/9.5)
8. Credit Agricole (A/9.5)
9. PwC (B/9)
10. Intesa Sanpaulo (B/9)
11. Salesforce (B/8.5)
12. S&P Global (B/8.5)
13.Capgemini (B/8.5)
14.AXA (B/8.5)
15. Atlassian (B/8.5)
16. AstraZeneca (B/8.5)
17. Adobe (B/8.5)
18. ABN Amro (B/8.5)
19. Veritas Technologies (B/8)
20. Pfizer (B/8)

Click here for the full report

“The pandemic proved that businesses can be as effective and even more efficient by flying less and reducing their emissions at the same time,” said Denise Auclair, corporate travel campaign manager at T&E.

“Cutting down on business travel makes economic sense for companies, and also protects employee wellbeing. Whilst leaders and citizens are crying out to reduce our dependence on oil, smarter traveling is an easy way to do so.”

In 2019, business travel accounted for around 15 to 20 per cent of all air travel, or about 154 million metric tonnes of CO2, reports Transport & Environment.

Among the 31 companies awarded a B grade were PwC (9 points), Salesforce (8.5), S&P Global (8.5), Capgemini (8.5), AstraZeneca (8.5), Pfizer (8), Deloitte (7.5), Bayer (7.5) , Mckinsey & Co. (7) and Boston Consulting Group (7).

The rankings, compiled by Transport & Environment and the Stand.Earth Research Group, have been published to coincide with the launch of the Travel Smart Campaign backed by a coalition of 13 partners and designed to help corporates address their travel-related carbon emissions.

“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,” said the report.

T&E is calling on all corporates to:
• Commit publicly to an absolute target of at least a 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.

It also says that companies that have intensity targets should adopt absolute reduction targets and the two should not be treated as equals. Companies who commit to intensity targets can still grow their workforce and their absolute emissions and thus worsen their climate impact, it notes.

“Traveling smart is about making every single meeting count. Although not all business travel by plane can be avoided, virtual meetings are an effective substitute in many cases. We have done it for two years, so why stop now?” says Auclair.

“Many companies have already announced targets to cut corporate flying by 50 per cent. The path is clear for others to equally step up, fly less and achieve more.”

The organization said 193 of the 230 companies it assessed – those achieving a C or D grade – are not acting with “sufficient speed and ambition to tackle corporate travel emissions”.

Although the companies achieving C and D grades may have set noteworthy company-wide emissions-cutting targets, such companies “could be encouraged to make ambitious business travel commitments in line with the reduction they experienced in 2020”.

The study concluded that current targets are not sufficient to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in line with the 1.5C warming scenarios and that reporting is “fuzzy and unstandardised”.

There is room for optimism, however. “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,” the study found.

T&E noted that the finance sector fared particularly well in the rankings while the tech sector has the biggest share of companies that disclose emissions but lack specific business travel commitments and reduction targets.

Auclair awning BTN Europe that T&E intends to publish the report annually and in future also include recognition for achievements and progress towards emissions reductions goals. The organization also notes that a broader geographic scope could be added to a future edition of the ranking, depending on data availability.

Rankings are based on nine elements including the extent of the reduction target, the target timeline, the specificity of commitments (ie company-wide, business travel or air travel), the target type (absolute or intensity), 2019 air travel emissions, and the number of years the company has already been reporting their emissions.

Understanding the report

Transport & Environment’s Travel Smart rankings are based on nine measures and place priority on carbon emissions reduction targets specifically pertaining to corporate air travel.

Companies could achieve a maximum score of 12.5 with scores weighted towards companies who have set larger, near-term reduction targets.

For example, up to three points were available for the size of the reduction commitment and up to two points for the timeline of the target.

In addition, a specific air travel target was awarded two points, a more generic business travel target one point, and wider Scope 3 targets 0.5 points. Absolute targets were awarded 1.5 points and intensity targets – which can see overall emissions increase due to a growing workforce – only 0.5 points.

Companies’ historic emissions were also factored in as negative scores, with -1 points for what T&E calls ‘major emitters’.

Companies graded C and D may well have committed to significant emissions reductions targets but, according to the research, have not publicly stated specific goals pertaining to air travel reductions which T&E believes are “the gold standard”.

The data is based on a variety of sources, including the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) database, the SBTi (Science Based Target Initiative) database, company ESG reports, annual reports, sustainability reports, press releases and other company-authored media that outlined commitments and targets.

The 230 European and US companies selected for the study were based on BTN’s Corporate Travel 100, the top five to ten companies in each of 12 European countries, and any company that mentions business travel in their SBTi commitment.

A briefing document recognized the challenges faced in compiling the results, including the estimate of air travel emissions where necessary and the variance of companies’ likely emissions by geographical location and industry sector where estimates have been made.

T&E said all companies appearing in the ranking had been contacted before publication of the report.

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