Leading UK companies taking part in WWF challenge cut business flights by 38 per cent over three-year period
Thu 27 Feb 2014 – Some of the UK’s biggest companies have cut flights by up to 38 percent and flight expenditure by 42 per cent over a three-year period, saving over £2 million ($3.3m) and 3,000 tonnes of CO2 on average. Twelve companies and organisations are taking part in the One in Five Challenge run by WWF-UK to reduce their flights by 20 per cent within five years. Participants such as BSkyB, BT, Capgemini, Lloyds TSB, Microsoft UK, Vodafone and the Scottish Government have managed to cut more flights, more quickly than anticipated, according to the programme’s latest annual report. The aim is to encourage companies to cut their costs and carbon from business travel, and change behaviour in favour of alternatives such as rail and videoconferencing. WWF-UK claims its analysis points to a permanent change in meeting and travel practices and questions the business case for UK airport expansion.
The report shows that since the Challenge was launched in 2009, businesses taking part have cut 141,000 flights at a saving of £26 million ($43m), in the process flying 113 million fewer kilometres and reducing CO2 emissions by 32,000 tonnes. Over a three-year period, Challenge members cut their flights by an average of 38%, going well beyond the goal. Two recent members joining the Challenge, Microsoft UK and the Scottish Government, have managed to cut their flights by 28%.
“Following Scotland’s good example, we’d like to see the UK Government take up the One in Five Challenge as well,” writes David Nussbaum, WWF-UK Chief Executive, in his introduction to the report.
In the baseline year – the starting point for the programme, which can be backdated by up to three years – the 12 members, representing over 335,000 employees, spent £98 million ($163m) on around 521,000 business flights with emissions of 152,000 tonnes of CO2. Of those 521,000 flights, 385,000 were domestic flights (74%), 47,000 were long-haul flights (9%) and 89,000 (17%) were short-haul, mainly European, flights.
The main benefits Challenge members expect to realise from reducing business flights, in order of importance, include reduced travel expenditure, reduction of the organisation’s carbon footprint, a better work-life balance for employees and an enhanced image and reputation for the organisation.
The report highlights that to achieve significant reductions in business flights, organisations use different measures that work most effectively for their particular circumstances. Such measures include the increasing use of remote conferencing, questioning the need to travel, replacing flights with rail travel and various management mechanisms to encourage staff to use these alternatives.
“The impressive results of the One in Five Challenge show that reducing business flying in favour of low carbon alternatives simply makes good business sense,” commented Nussbaum. “It is the smart way for organisations to stay connected in an increasingly carbon-constrained world. WWF believes that business will continue to fly less – not more – in future and that decisions on UK airport capacity need to reflect this fact. Companies profit by flying less.”
Having run the Challenge for four years, WWF-UK is now handing the programme over to Global Action Plan, a UK environmental behaviour change charity that helps business to reduce its impact on the environment.