December 7, 2021
 

How to…cut your travel carbon footprint

As part of a new Responsible Business Charter, National Grid has set ambitious goals to reduce its travel carbon footprint through reduction and offsetting

1 THE BACKGROUND

National Grid is an electricity and gas company with 23,000 employees in the UK and US. Pre-Covid it had around 6,000 global travellers mostly flying on regional domestic and transatlantic routes such London-Boston, London-New York and Birmingham-Glasgow/Aberdeen. In the UK its travel is managed by Agiito (formerly Capita), which works in partnership with Omega World Travel for the global programme. A Principal Partner for the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, at the start of 2020 National Grid committed to cutting its global air miles by 50% compared to 2019 and offsetting the rest of its air travel. Then Covid struck and its air volume reduced to just 6%. As travel restarts, National Grid remains committed to its initial target and in the last 18 months it has completed a project to collect and analyse its travel data ready to implement its new sustainability policy.

2 THE PROCESS

With close collaboration between its UK and US procurement teams and working with its TMC partners, National Grid was able to pull together data on its air travel for 2019, which was found to be a typical year. It then broke the data down by department or areas of responsibility to show each senior leader their baseline mileage, their impact on the company’s carbon footprint and a future target mileage. The data has been compiled into a report and passed to the Group Sustainability team. From April, the start of the next financial year, the team will share this data with senior leaders on a regular basis as part of the company’s overall Responsible Business Plan, which aims to make the company’s entire operation net-zero by 2050.

Meanwhile, finding an offsetting partner had long been on the company’s agenda to offset areas where zero emissions aren’t currently feasible. In early 2020 National Grid reached out to its TMCs and, by chance, Agiito had just begun working with Trees4Travel, a ‘profit for good’ firm, which allows travellers to offset their carbon through indigenous and non-farmed tree planting. “It was great timing and has helped us streamline the process,” said David Short, National Grid Contract Manager Global Procurement. The company has managed to offset all travel globally since 2020.

3 THE CHALLENGE

“The hardest part wasn’t getting the information but being able to split that data into areas of responsibility. That took the largest amount of time,” said Short.

“At the same time, National Grid had embarked on a major structural change, so we’ve had to take historic data and try to apply it to a new structure, which has made it more difficult.”

The other challenge, said Short, was ensuring the data included flights not booked through the TMCs. “But luckily, for air travel, that’s a small amount,” he said.

4 THE RESULT

The Covid travel pause has given National Grid the chance to collect and analyse its air travel data and has provided a

natural kick-start to its sustainability goals. As international travel starts up again, it is armed with the information it needs to enforce the new mileage reductions in order to achieve long-term carbon reductions. In the next phase, it is talking to its TMC partners about how it can reduce its carbon footprint in other aspects of its travel, such as hotels and ground transport.