April 24, 2024

Travel with purpose

Nico Nicholas, CEO of carbon offset technology platform Trees4Travel, explains why business travel doesn’t have to mean green shaming

There are a number of options to significantly reduce a company’s carbon footprint and rewards aplenty for those that do.  

First up is an obvious one: we could all fly less. 

In a year that business travel has been next to impossible we have, on the whole, kept calm and carried on. Zoom has demonstrated that we can continue to do business in the virtual world, but is it as effective?  

Is it as constructive to talk through your computer screen? Definitely not. Evidence is starting to show that Zoom-fatigue is real and certainly the creativity and energy of a face-to-face brainstorm cannot be achieved whilst wearing your slippers and trying to keep the ironing pile out of shot. 

So yes, fly less, but when you do fly do it with purpose and plan to ensure that not only maximum business goals are achieved but consider adding in some personal ‘wellness time’. Explore your destination, take some rest, and contribute to the local economy before rushing back to your base. 

As a business, take advantage of this post-Covid opportunity to reset. Consider employing a sustainability officer to conduct an audit and put in place strict policies to ensure travel is planned and ruthlessly justified. This will minimise wasteful jet-hopping, which exhausts employees, deprives them of family and ‘down-time’, makes them less productive, and also cost the Earth (both figuratively and literally). 

There is still time to assemble an impactful and informed travel strategy for any business before we explode back into short- and long-haul business connectivity. 

When you do travel, make other more Earth-friendly travel choices, such as going by train from London to Edinburgh. It will take longer but you can work on the way and there’ll be no hanging about in airport queues. It’s significantly less stressful and generates a whopping 87% less CO2 (according to seat61.com). Driving a conventional car to Edinburgh on the other hand has a similar impact to flying. 

Remember that once you have a policy in place, promote it. Clients, current and future, will bask in your reflected glory by boasting that they work with more mindful/sustainable businesses. Sustainability makes good business sense, and it’s catching. We know: our phones are ringing off the hook! 

Which brings me neatly to the subject of carbon offsetting, one of those terms that can make executives roll their eyes. It can seem like such a complex and inaccessible issue – the proverbial ‘can’ to be kicked down the road for as long as possible – but with the correct information it is simple, impactful and inexpensive to make meaningful shifts toward sustainable business travel. 

“Explore your destination, take some rest, and contribute to the local economy before rushing back to your base”

Carbon offset works by calculating the amount of CO2 generated by a journey and then using one of several recognised methods to remove that CO2 from the atmosphere to ‘rebalance’ the scales. There are natural and man-made options for doing this. 

The tree is scientifically proven to be the most effective absorber of CO2 because it not only stores the carbon but importantly releases the oxygen back into the atmosphere.  

Planting indigenous trees in validated reforestation projects, (in other words, in plantations that will not then be farmed for timber) is the most inexpensive, reliable and Earth-friendly way to offset our carbon generation. In addition, reforestation increases wildlife habitat, improves soil (another effective absorber of CO2) and can provide valuable income streams for communities, from tourism to bee keeping. 

De-forestation is actually the cause of 20% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere, compared to maximum 3% from air travel, so it is imperative when signing up to a tree-planting scheme to ensure the trees will not be farmed. 

Other offset schemes available include supporting community-based projects directly. These schemes ensure protection of existing indigenous forests through directly funding for the indigenous community. In this way they are able to afford to protect the forest ecosystem rather than farm it.  

The Brazilian rainforest – the world’s biggest set of lungs – is being felled at an alarming rate of around 36 football fields of trees every day, simply because the inhabitants are economically-driven toward farming, mostly methane-expelling cattle.  

Methane is another disastrous greenhouse gas. Schemes supporting the communities of the rainforest to take up other income streams can have hugely positive effects environmentally. In addition, many of these schemes offer CCU’s (Certified Carbon Units) which can be used for mandatory carbon reporting for larger corporations. 

There are manmade solutions out there. Direct Air Carbon Capture machines (DACC’s), which suck CO2 out of the air and bury it deep underground, have been hailed by some as the answer to reducing global temperatures to the key 1.5 above pre-industrialisation levels. However, a recent study by Nature Communications put their requirements to achieve this at as much as a quarter of global energy supplies by 2100, which is hardly a panacea. 

Whichever scheme you choose, as soon as it starts to seem too complex or time consuming move on. It isn’t the right one for your business.