A guide to
environmentally-conscious
business travel

Advancements in technology have made the world smaller, giving rise to a global economy and access to new markets. Global projects are no longer the domain of large companies alone, with small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) winning and fulfilling contracts internationally too.

While it’s possible to video conference in any time zone, there are many times when face-to-face communication is the only sensible choice. So in a time when more needs to be done to preserve the planet for future generations, how can you become more environmentally conscious when travelling for business?

Flight Centre Business Travel has collated our top tips for reducing your carbon footprint while keeping your business moving forward.

1. Choose direct flights

Aircraft use the most fuel and emit the most harmful emissions during take-off. On short-haul flights, take-off can contribute up to 25% of their total emissions on the flight.  

When you purchase a non-direct flight, you will be introducing a second or third take-off to a single journey - ultimately increasing the total emissions of your trip. You’ll also have a longer journey time to your destination, so it's a great excuse to fly direct.

2. Fly in economy class

It's a little-known fact that flying "up-front" adds to your carbon emissions on a flight. According to the World Bank, because the business class seats take up more space, the emissions generated while flying in business class is around three times as much as when you travel in economy class. So, while the total emissions from the plane remain the same, your proportional contribution to the carbon footprint is higher.  

So while the service and luxury experienced in these premium cabins make longer journeys more comfortable, eco-conscious travellers should consider whether these benefits outweigh the environmental costs. 

3. Choose a fuel-efficient airline

Not all airlines are created equal. They operate different routes and aircraft, which both contribute to their overall fuel efficiency as does the age of their fleet (newer aircraft produce fewer emissions), and travellers should also consider how fuel-efficient the airline is.

For example, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) announced during September 2018 that Norwegian was the most fuel-efficient airline on transatlantic routes. After analysing 20 leading airlines on routes between Europe and the United States in 2017, ICCT found that Norwegian, on average, achieves an efficiency of 44 passenger kilometres per litre - 33% higher than the industry average.

 4. Choose an airline that invests in alternative fuels

While fuel efficiency is an essential factor in how airlines impact the environment, an area of development is the use of new, alternative fuels that are better for the planet. Biofuel still creates emissions when it burns, but it is a "recirculation" of already existing carbon. This means that these biofuels do not introduce new CO mass into the environment. A Yale School of Forestry study estimated that widespread use of biofuels could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%. 

KLM became the first commercial airline to fly with bio-jet fuels in 2011. The airline now offers daily flights from Los Angeles to Amsterdam using the alternative energy source. Singapore and SAS are also notable examples of biofuel adopters, and several other airlines are developing and trialling biofuels as viable alternatives to fossil fuels.

 

5. Off-set your emissions

Regardless of your efforts to reduce your direct contribution to emission while travelling, there’s no escaping that air travel contributes significantly to carbon emissions. To balance out your impact you have the option to offset your emissions. You can support various carbon off-set programs including forest planting and rejuvenation projects as well as investment in renewable energy projects. Each of these programmes helps to balance carbon emissions globally as well as create employment and other social benefits for the local community.

6. Use public transport to journey to the airport

Travelling to the airport by taxi or car may be very convenient but choosing public transport instead can reduce your overall carbon footprint. From shared transfers to trains that arrive directly at the airport, there are several options for environmentally savvy business travellers. In London, the Heathrow and Gatwick Express train are prime examples of convenient train options.

7. Stay at sustainable hotels 

Sustainable hotels focus on three factors; economic, social and environmental sustainability. They go beyond the light-touch activities of using recycled toilet paper and energy-saving light bulbs, and truly invest in sustainability at every level. 

Sustainable hotels come in many shapes and sizes with small independent properties sitting comfortably alongside international groups such as Hilton, Marriot International, Hyatt, International Hotels Groups and Accor Hotels. 

Many of these hotel groups have pledged, and are actively pursuing, the reduction of water and energy consumption as well as general waste creation. But many go even further with specific projects including;

•    The installation of beehives on hotel rooftops – Fairmont
•    The launch of ‘10 Million Trees Initiative’ to plant trees across 34 countries where the group owns hotels – Four Seasons
•    Recycling unused soap and amenity bottles and donate them to homeless shelters, community centres and medical facilities in poorer communities – Hilton
•    Supplying all staff with uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles - Marriot
 

8. Little changes count too

These are only a handful of ways to be more environmentally conscious when travelling for business. There are many small changes that you can make to lighten your environmental load when packing for your next business trip. 

Start with packing fewer items into your bags. While the overall impact of passenger and baggage weight on a flight's carbon emissions is relatively small, you can’t underestimate the cumulative effect of every trip. You can also use your mobile to access your boarding pass instead of printing one out; most airlines have apps which allow you to check-in online and load your boarding pass at the same time. 

As business travel becomes more prominent, travellers, airlines, hotels and other travel providers all must play a role in protecting the environment. Flight Centre Business Travel offers you the option to offset your emissions with every flight. Our travel experts can help you find the most environmentally friendly airlines, routing and hotels to make your business travel as sustainable as possible. Together, we can all travel towards a greener future.