How we’re approaching our decarbonising enterprise series

Written by Mark Corbett on 23 Dec 2020

Hello and welcome to the first edition of a long-line of data-driven insights and blog posts. Over the coming months and years, our goal here is to share some of the most exciting and useful decarbonisation insights possible. Together, we can help you shape the future of your business travel policy. As we grow we will release detailed publications in partnership with industry thought leaders.

By the close of 2020, more than 1,000 large companies have announced carbon-neutral goals. This is a big leap in the right direction for decarbonising enterprise and reducing our environmental footprint. Making it a reality is by no means a simple task. This is why we have launched this insights page. We are launching to help our clients, partners, and friends to take the steps necessary to deliver on this promise .

As this is a launch post, we’d like to shed some light on some basics for those new to decarbonisation. We'll touch on some of the key themes and topics to explore in the future. So here goes!

Steps to decarbonising enterprises

So how on earth does one calculate emissions for business travel?

Let’s state the obvious first; carbon emissions measurement is a nascent industry. That means general awareness and knowledge of the topic is low. Accurate data is expensive. As with any new initiative, it relies on specialist consultants, experts, and that is cost-heavy. Furthermore, how do you even verify the accuracy of their work?

Well, what might surprise you is this a problem we once faced. The first piece of climate technology we built was an embeddable offsetting widget. Except, we didn’t have good data to make accurate calculations. We didn’t know the science. When we investigated, we couldn’t find one calculator on the market that justified its method. In some cases, they failed to even include what we considered basic information. One would have thought that class of travel is an essential part of business travel.

As a result, we had to go back to the drawing board, and thus built our core product, an emissions calculator. As technologists, we knew when to listen to customer demands. As a result, our calculator has become the market-leading engine for translating travel data into emissions data. It led to awards from BTN and IATA, and to a myriad of global talks, right inside your office/bedroom/kitchen. It’s also what will be supercharging many of these insights.

Right, so data is important. But what can we do with it? How do you go green?

It’s often said that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. The innovative sustainability team at Microsoft know this better than anyone. They have implemented a carbon budget and taxation system to reduce carbon emissions. As fellow practitioners of carbon budgeting, we use our calculator to fuel the budget, and reduce client emissions.

We cannot wait to share client success stories, because they act as inspiration - even proof - of what is possible. Can you empower employees to drive climate change? Will we move to a digital first workforce? How do you integrate technology to remove the need to travel? What is the role of business class? When you do travel, how do you do so, whilst also striving for decarbonisation? These are fascinating topics we will be illuminating over these insights.

We need to look after our people, and we need to grow the business. How can we reduce emissions without hurting our enterprise?

This is an excellent question. It is one that is often posed to us by our Fortune 500 clients. That’s why we set out to help our clients reduce what they can, and offset the rest. It is also why we build easy to use software to transform the behaviour and decision-making of your travellers.

Is offsetting the same as greenwashing?

Ok, but isn’t offsetting greenwashing? Or will it become the norm?

Greenwashing is when companies present themselves as ‘green’ to hide their true impact.

Offsetting does not make you ‘green’, in part because this is a super vague term. Offsetting is the act of cleaning up after yourself. It is becoming the norm for business emissions that cannot be avoided any other way. It is the most cost effective, and fastest means of reaching carbon neutrality.

This is a delicate topic, but one that we’re very excited to explore in more detail in our coming insight posts.

Gotcha. So what is carbon-neutrality? Is it different from net-zero?

Carbon neutral means all your emissions are offset elsewhere. This could be in the form of paying for others to choose not to emit, such as cookstoves. It could be subsiding the cost of renewable energy where coal or oil is the cost-effective option. Tree planting is very popular, but sequestering carbon takes decades.

Imagine, if you will, the single most polluting business in the world. If they were to offset every single emission, they would become carbon neutral. And that’s a good thing! Yet, despite this, you can see why one might not respect the suggestion they are 'green'. It’s not quite the same.

Net Zero refers to when a company removes as much carbon as it emits. This means offsets that avoid emissions are out. As a result, it is more ambitious, costs more, but is a cut above for our environmental footprint. There is still work to be done reaching a totally unambiguous definition, if you wish to explore the nuances.

After neutrality, one can aim for net-zero, and then it's a small jump to carbon negativity.

Carbon negativity? Is this where we discuss carbon capture?

Carbon negativity is when your methods of decarbonising have been so successful you are having a positive footprint. Or rather, a minus footprint! You are removing more than you emit. For context, Microsoft wish to meet their negative goal by 2030. After 20 years of carbon negativity, they will have offset their entire emissions history. Right now, they are trend setters, but expect this to grow.

As for carbon capture, it is an innovative (and expensive) solution for preventing the release of CO2 at source. This means it is never released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. This still poses significant scientific challenges. Imagine capturing the CO2, transporting it to a storage location (usually deep underground) and isolating it. The carbon still needs to live somewhere. Innovators and scientists are working to devise various methods of breaking it down once in storage, such as bacteria!

Speaking of reductions, what strategies can we implement to reduce our footprint that works for us?

The easiest way to reduce travel emissions is simple to reduce your travel. We are huge advocates of longer trips, less often. This can often reduce your entire emissions footprint by a third!

If you're looking for something a little more data-driven, that where our calculator shines. At the click of a button you can analyse your travel data. Our data analysts can transform your carbon-neutral strategy with targeted recommendations.

When flying, one big trend we’ll be discussing is sustainable aviation fuel, also known as SAF. Created from natural biological matter and injected straight into regular fuel, it cuts the emissions immediately. The challenge here is it is also a premium solution at present, due to lack of availability and the production method. As with carbon capture, many incredible innovators, like our friends at Neste, are working non-stop to inject SAF into your next flight.

What if no one in my organisation believes / cares about environmental impact?

Well, that’s tough. The science is irrefutable, but explaining this rarely wins an argument. We like to lead with the positive stats. Fighting climate change right now will create 80 million jobs, bring 1 billion people out of poverty and add US$ 2.3 trillion in productive growth (via Conservation International). Going green may be a journey to save our planet, but it will help you win customers, and grow your business.

What the world needs now isn’t talk, it's action. Every step to decarbonisation is a positive step for your business. Here in our new blog, we'll be demonstrating that. We'll be showcasing success stories. We'll be delivering data. Together, we can ensure our actions need not cost the earth.