New Ranking Shows Climate Impacts of Corporate Business Travel

Tuesday May 10, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 10, 2022

 

New Ranking Shows Climate Impacts of Corporate Business Travel 

A new ranking of 230 global companies by Transport & Environment (T&E) and Stand.earth shows that only 3% of brands are committed to act with sufficient speed and ambition in line with the latest IPCC report 

SAN FRANCISCO – With the business community steadily returning to air travel after a two year hiatus, a new ranking released today by Stand.earth and Europe-based Transport & Environment (T&E) found that the vast majority of global brands are not taking sufficient action to reduce their climate pollution from air travel. No U.S. company achieved an “A” standard in commitments to reduce business flying, and the U.S. tech sector made up a substantial portion of the lowest ranking companies, with Google, Facebook, and Microsoft each earning a “D” for failing to make meaningful commitments to reduce their corporate air travel. 

The new ranking is the start of the Travel Smart Campaign led by Transport & Environment, Stand.earth, and an international coalition of 12 other groups. The campaign comes at a crucial time for the travel industry as business flying begins to pick up post-pandemic shutdown. In 2019, prior to the onset of the Covid pandemic, business travel accounted for about 15 to 20% of air travel, or about 154 million MtCO2. During the Covid pandemic, business travel spending declined by 52% in 2020, from 1.4 trillion USD in 2019 to 694 billion USD in 2020. 

Companies like Vodafone, Renault, and L’Oréal have all made company-wide emissions reductions targets but no commitment to reduce corporate air travel emissions by a certain date. They could be encouraged to make ambitious business travel commitments in line with the reduction they experienced in 2020, which would help to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5°C warming scenarios. The report found tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to have among the largest air travel emissions of the 230 companies, and they rank among the lowest in this ranking because, in part, of their lack of plans to accelerate the transition to becoming smart travelers.

Gary Cook, Stand.earth Corporate Campaigns Director:

“Despite a rapid expansion in the number of companies making ‘Net Zero’ or ‘Climate Neutral’ commitments, this analysis shows only a few companies are committed to reducing emissions from business travel in their climate strategies. Surprisingly, despite high profile leadership in tackling emissions elsewhere, U.S. tech companies Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, which our analysis found have some of the largest emissions from air travel, have so few commitments to reduce their flying emissions that they rank near the bottom of the list. Rather than returning to pre-Covid levels of business travel, the smart companies are rethinking their travel policies and leveraging the remote work technologies U.S. tech giants created, allowing them to keep their emissions and the costs much lower.” 

Denise Auclair, corporate travel campaign manager at T&E: 

“The pandemic proved that businesses can be as effective and even more efficient by flying less and reducing their emissions at the same time. Whilst some companies in Europe and the U.S. show that reducing emissions from business flying is possible, others like Volkswagen and Accenture are dragging their feet. Cutting down on business travel makes economic sense for companies, and also protects employee wellbeing. While leaders and citizens are crying out to reduce our dependence on oil, smarter traveling is an easy way to do so.”

The ranking grades 230 U.S. and European companies according to nine indicators, relating to emissions reduction targets, reporting, and air travel emissions. The analysis, which includes seventy-five U.S. businesses, sheds light on the significant efforts certain businesses have still to make to reduce their corporate travel emissions. No U.S. company set adequate targets to reduce corporate travel. 

A company with an "A" score has an absolute reduction commitment for air travel, some of which are aiming for a 50% or higher reduction target by 2025. These companies have been reporting their business or air travel emissions for more than a year. Eight companies (3%) in the ranking earned an A, none of them headquartered in the U.S. The Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk comes out on top, with its 50% reduction target by 2025 and transparent reporting of air travel emissions for the past three years.

In California, excess business travel also causes real trouble for the Amazon rainforest, with oil exploration the leading driver of upper Amazon deforestation. According to a recent study by Stand.earth, “Linked Fates,” 50% of crude exported from the Amazon region is refined in California--and a substantial portion of that is turned into jet fuel used by airlines flying from LAX and SFO.

Matt Krogh, Stand.earth Oil and Gas Campaign Specialist:

“Every time a plane takes off from LAX or SFO, it’s burning a small part of the Amazon rainforest. Aviation is one of the biggest consumers of Amazon oil in California--more than 1 in every 6 gallons of jet fuel from LAX is from the Amazon. Rather than rely on carbon offsets, a leadership commitment by California’s tech sector to reduce corporate flying and to get California off of Amazon oil would go a long way toward solving the climate crisis, and reduce pressure to expand oil extraction in the Amazon.”

With the exception of Salesforce, which received a “B” ranking, the largest California based corporate flyers--including Google, Facebook, and McKinsey consulting--all received a “D” in the ranking, with Apple receiving only a C. The analysis estimates that McKinsey leads all 230 companies globally with the highest corporate air travel emissions at 594,500 MtCO2 in 2019, with Facebook at 407,178 MtCO2, Google at 284,024 MtCO2, and Apple at 250,542 MtCO2. 

Full rankings for all 230 companies can be found on the Travel Smart website, launched May 10th: travelsmartcampaign.org/ranking/

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Stand.earth contact: Travis Nichols 404.432.1362