I love my car even though it mostly sits in the garage these days. I’ve had it virtually since I was a teenager and we’re nearly the same age. I’d argue it’s almost a classic though few of my friends or family would agree. It generally still works brilliantly but for a few limitations - one of which is the somewhat ‘playful’ fuel gauge. I’ll never forget the time when, on the motorway, I felt a funny sort of vibration and realised to my horror that I was nearly out of petrol. But I had faith in the car, and it was that last stretch of road before home, the one we all know really well. I took stock, focussed, drove as smoothly as possible, and - I kid you not - rolled onto the forecourt coming to an almost perfect, joyous, stop. Right next to the pumps.
In many ways this is a great analogy for almost any organisation trying to green its travel programme. We may feel we have long-standing limitations and the journey may seem difficult. But by understanding the starting point and taking care en-route, it’s possible for any organisation to accelerate toward net zero.
Let’s take a look at how that journey can be broken down:
- Your fuel tank - great data and carbon targets. My experience shows that before setting off, you need to plan your end goal and check progress regularly. Your organisation can do the same by understanding its current emissions data and setting carbon reduction targets for future dates such as 2030 and 2050. Annual carbon budgets should be used to track progress towards these targets with maximum accuracy.
- Your engine - information at Point of Sale. Motors (preferably electric ones!) get us to where we need to be. But they also generate the emissions so need to be made as efficient as possible. By utilising ‘point of sale’ information – that CWT recently announced had been added to its myCWT travel management platform, travellers can be ‘nudged’ towards picking the most efficient flights or greenest hotels. Small effortless changes made thousands of times over can have a drastic impact on an organisation’s overall emissions. Travellers have become used to making decisions based on price and other data. Adding carbon information is a natural progression of this.
- Your steering wheel - green travel policies. Just like a steering wheel, well-formed green travel policies can direct you to your end goal. A simulation of a typical SME travel programme run by Thrust Carbon found that the 14% of flights taken in Premium Economy, Business and First generated a whopping 47% of air travel emissions. This illustrates how light-touch policies - such as slightly reducing business class flights - can have a large impact on emissions. Similarly, businesses could choose to mandate electric vehicles, which in the UK emit just 29gCO2/km, compared to over 100gCO2/km for most traditional cars.
- Your passengers - taking travellers with you. Your travellers need to be committed to your organisation’s net zero goals. But the good news is that not only will a shared mission drive your journey to net zero, but it’ll help your organisation appear attractive to like-minded clients and employees, who by and large will want to engage with the challenge. It’s a great opportunity for the travel management community to broaden its focus and expertise beyond traditional priorities such as cost control too!
So there you have it. Net zero might seem daunting, but it’s a journey that can be broken down into manageable portions, which together are greater than the sum of their parts… just like my ‘classic’ car!
About the author
Tan Strehler-Weston is head of policy and operations at Thrust Carbon. Prior to this he spent seven years working for the UK Government on net zero and international relations policy.