Sustainable business practices are becoming progressively more important as younger employees enter the business world and are more concerned about corporate social responsibility. Some corporate social responsibility initiatives include HSBC’s installation of state-of-the-art conference facilities in their offices to reduce the need for travel, and Google’s carbon neutral operational emissions as of 2017 following the GHG protocol and including direct, indirect, and overall emissions of their value chain.
In particular, flying for business purposes is socially accepted and the norm in many companies. With the IOCA (International Organization for Civil Aviation) aiming to double the number of air passengers by 2036, reducing or cutting flight emissions has become a subject of debate.
The global increase in living standards has led to more international tourism. There were approximately 36.8 million flights in 2017—equivalent to at least one plane taking off every second. With such a staggering amount of air travel and resulting pollutants, sustainable travel is becoming increasingly more important, with potential change coming from both leisure and business travel.
However, reducing one’s carbon footprint does not stop at the airport. That’s why we’ve developed a brand-new travel policy at EVBox in accordance with our status as a scale-up. We are encouraging team members to challenge themselves on if flying is really necessary.
Figure 1 - sustainable travel decision flowchart
Some things to consider for sustainable traveling
- Do I really need to travel, or are there other options like video calling?
- If yes, is flying the best option?
- Is it possible to travel by train? If so, if the total travel time does not increase by more than 25%, traveling by train is the preferred option.
- If flying is the only option, always make sure to book early!
- If traveling to local locations, consider (e)biking or public transport. If traveling with others, consider e-car pooling/ e-car sharing.
Encouraging low-carbon means of transport
Throughout the year, we attend major trade shows and send about 20 employees to each. In May, we attended Power2Drive in Munich and EVS32 in Lyon. We thought it would be a great opportunity to try traveling to a trade show by train instead of plane. It was a great way to align with our values and experiment with what it takes to change a habit.
You’ve got to enjoy the ride
In Europe, we are lucky enough to benefit from a great network of over 9,000km of high-speed railroads. High-speed trains are a comfortable, safe, and environmentally-friendly means of transport. Train travel also provides a great opportunity for informal conversations. From our experience, traveling to the trade shows by train gave our team members a chance to get to know each other better. Also, the onboard WiFi allows everyone to work almost as usual. We’re not going to lie, the connection was poor when we crossed some areas, but the scenic landscapes of the countryside made our wait for re-connection more pleasant.
And how convenient and enjoyable is it to arrive directly in the city center instead of the outskirts where airports usually are?
With this action, we want to introduce a change and hope to spark a transformation in business travel habits. Indeed, a full 8-hour trip does take more time than a 1.5 hour flight, but all of our team members enjoyed the ride!
Figure 2 - source: Miguel A. Amutio
Cutting down on carbon emissions
Let’s dive into some data about pollution. According to studies, 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the transportation sector, 3.5% of which is air transport. Although it does not seem alarming, we must keep in mind that flights release 14 to 40 times more CO2 per person and kilometer than trains do. If the predicted increase in air traffic remains, it's easy to understand why this is alarming.
With this measure, we tried to evaluate how much CO2 we’ve saved. The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) developed a scientific methodology that evaluates overall greenhouse gas emissions from a “well to wheel” perspective. This holistic approach is more relevant to compare different means of transport. According to this method, we saved about 200kg of CO2 per passenger for our Munich event and 250kg for our Lyon event. Combined, that’s approximately 5.5 tons of CO2 saved! 5.5 tons of CO2 is equivalent to one-and-a-half trips from Brussels to New York by plane.
When you have no other choice, compensate
EVBox recently committed to CO2 compensation projects with the Climate Neutral Group. Based on 2018 travel reports, we aim to compensate 1,250 tons CO2.
“Taking the train to the event was very pleasant. The seats are comfortable, there is WiFi to work, and a good opportunity to enjoy conversations with colleagues. Besides, it's much more convenient to just go to the train station and arrive in the city center, rather than going through the usual airport routine. I’m also happy to contribute to decreasing EVBox’s carbon footprint by using the train instead of the plane, especially for European travels. Overall, a great experience!” - Benjamin Mattsson, Pre-Sales Engineer
Five learnings for your organization
- Train trips are good for building bonds with team members and can be used as regular working days
- Employee resistance to change is quite low if the shift comes with proper explanation and purpose
- Implementing travel policies encourage employees to make sustainable choices and change mindsets
- Investing in conferencing technologies and making smart decisions on locations can justify less business travel
- While CO2 compensation should not be an excuse for unsustainable travel, travel agencies should nevertheless offer CO2 compensation for situations where air travel is the only option
What’s next: individual contributions and company culture
Next month, we’ll be covering how everyone can contribute to the bigger picture at an individual scale. Many of our team members are already volunteering in associations, so we’ll be diving deep into the volunteering culture at EVBox and you can encourage your friends and colleagues to volunteer more. See you next month!
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