Report: Firms with net-zero targets still not cutting back on business flights

Carried out by Transport & Environment (T&E), the analysis looked at air travel emissions, reduction targets and reporting of hundreds of large multinational businesses with their headquarters in either the UK, EU, US or India. Based on this data, the businesses were given a grade from ‘A’ to ‘D’.

Concerningly, only 11 of the companies assessed achieved an ‘A’ grade, and only four of these companies meet T&E’s ‘gold standard’ – reporting air travel emissions regularly and in full, and targeting at least a 50% reduction by 2025. These companies are Dutch bank ABN Amro; reinsurance giant Swiss Re; pharmaceutical multinational Novo Nordisk and investment manager Fidelity International.

The majority of the companies, 66%, received a ‘C’ grade, while almost one-fifth scored the lowest-possible grade of ‘D’. Several companies that are often criticised for their climate impact have a ‘D’ grade, including Glencore, BP, Adani, ExxonMobil and Ferrari.

But also scoring poorly were dozens of companies often touted as having strong sustainability credentials, including Danone, Unilever, Lush and Alphabet. Additionally in the ‘D’ grade category are the likes of McDonald’s, Comcast, Amazon and Netflix. None of these companies have specific targets to cut emissions from flights.

Volkswagen, KPMG and Johnson & Johnson are the top three emitters of the Travel Smart Ranking without a target to reduce their travel emissions.

As well as poor target-setting across the board, T&E’s analysis found that, even when businesses do set targets and begin reporting, they often only cover CO2 emissions associated with air travel – and exclude all other greenhouse gases.

Almost nine in ten of the companies assessed do not have commitments covering non-CO2 emissions associated with air travel, despite these emissions accounting for the majority of the climate impact of aircraft. T&E has named McKinsey, Deloitte and AstraZeneca as leaders for setting commitments covering all aircraft emissions.

T&E’s corporate travel manager Denise Auclair said: “Most companies are taking little to no action on business flying, which renders any other travel targets meaningless in the context of tackling climate change. Only few frontrunners align with science by reporting non-CO2 emissions – the hidden part of the iceberg of aviation’s full climate impact.”

Given that aviation is a hard-to-abate sector, with solutions such as alternative fuels, hydrogen and electric aircraft still in their relative infancy, T&E is urging corporates to avoid flights wherever possible in the coming years. It advocates video conferencing as an alternative to long-haul flights and rail as a short-haul alternative.

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