Business travel

Sustainable travel becomes a mandate

Johnny Thorsen, Vice President Strategy and Partnerships, Spotnana

We have reached the end of another crazy year in both the calendar and the travel industry. So it’s time for me to write and share the next chapter of my “green travel odyssey”, and there’s no doubt that 2021 has been the most exciting year in terms of key travel developments. sustainable. As usual, I’ve spent time reading my previous chapters to refresh my memory, and it’s fascinating and very positive to see all that has happened in 2021 despite the continued impact of Covid-19 on travel and the resulting lack of resources and money. Based on that, I really think 2022 is shaping up to be the year that “sustainable travel” will go from an emerging trend to a mandate.

Personal Sustainability Policy

Throughout 2021, I presented my latest edition of the TravelTopia story to audiences around the world, almost exclusively virtually with just one in-person appearance. Each time I have included a public statement showing my own travel policy. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and a number of people have actually reached out to share how they created their own personal policy as a result.

I’m not telling anyone what their policy should be, but once you’ve established your own sustainable travel policy, it suddenly becomes much easier to decide whether or not you should travel for a given event. Here I share my current personal travel policy and hope it can inspire you to create your own policy, no matter what it might look like.

Personal travel policyCredit: Johnny Thorsen
Personal travel policy Credit: Johnny Thorsen

Apart from my TravelTopia presentations, I still managed to catch 21 flights with seven different airlines and traveled a total of 70,856 km. With this, I can offer my carbon emission estimates, and I also include my first-time hotel stays, which totals 22 nights.

Flights: 17.33 tons of CO2 generated by 21 flights on seven airlines (0.244 kg of CO2 per km flown)
0.72 tonnes of CO2 generated per 22 nights (35 kg CO2 per night)

Total CO2: 18.1 tons of CO2
Clearing cost:
172.92 ($9.55 per ton of CO2 offset)

I used Thrust Carbon to calculate my carbon emissions as well as for offsetting, but I also ran my trip data through four other carbon calculators to compare the results. The findings were fascinating. I won’t “name and honor” any of the other compute service providers, but there is clearly still a problem with inconsistent compute models. [Editor’s note: Thorsen
is an advisory to Thrust Carbon, and a family member is an executive for that

The highest result (flights only) was 20.01 tonnes of CO2 and the lowest was 7.46 tonnes of CO2 and that’s where the problems start. The discrepancy is significant and one of the reasons why we need airlines to provide improved data on actual fuel consumption so that we can start calculating based on factual operational data rather than average assumptions. .

How far will sustainable travel go in 2022?

When we enter a new year, it is traditional to predict what might happen. I’m going to take an educated guess and make several predictions for “sustainable business travel” in 2022. Here we go…

Switching from micro to macro measurement. I think we will see progress in 2022 on the fuel consumption calculation challenge I described above. With these advancements, a new model will emerge that no longer focuses on individual flights and the hotel, as this simply creates unnecessary workload for both the individual traveler and the travel program owner. So I think we’ll see the emergence of “overall provider performance” as the dominant driver of service and provider selection. The principle of selecting a flight based on an estimated carbon emissions number three weeks before the actual date of travel is full of holes like “what will be the final cabin load factor” and “what if the airline aerial changes the type of aircraft”. A much better yardstick would be to look at the average carbon emission per passenger-mile flown, as this is an unchanging operational data point.

SAF demand will continue and hopefully become more transparent. 2021 has provided an incredibly consistent pipeline of major airline announcements regarding commitment to future SAF purchases. Despite the positive SAF headlines, we still have a major problem on our hands – the majority of SAF announcements are made with several assumptions included, and the most important is the lack of basic SAF supply around the world, which means airlines can make these announcements without any real commercial impact.

In case you were wondering, SAF’s global production capacity in 2021 was still less than 1% of aviation fuel consumption. Based on all known expansion plans, we could reach 2.5% SAF production capacity by 2025. So, although SAF reduces carbon emissions by 70% to 80% (depending on model you apply), there simply isn’t enough SAF available to make a real impact until 2030 or later. So the only alternative strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from your business travel program over the next eight years is to travel less. I know this is bad news for airlines and the industry at large, but there are no other credible options at present.

One of the most positive developments was the announcement of SAF commitments at the alliance level at the end of 2021. This marks the start of a whole new area of ​​cooperation between alliance members and hopefully will result in faster overall development of SAF’s increased production capacity around the world.

Traveler recognition for sustainable behaviors. Airlines will start recognizing travelers who have paid for SAF or carbon offsetting as part of their booking. This will probably happen as part of the pre-flight announcement, but hopefully a few airlines will go so far as to put a green sticker on the traveler’s seat (at least in the digital seat map display) or may offer a few extra loyalty points. in exchange for the traveller’s support.

KPIs for virtual meetings versus in-person travel. Large companies will begin to monitor the number of virtual meetings and maintain a target ratio to the number of in-person trips. An example might be a business buyer launching a policy that says, “We allow one in-person travel for every five virtual meetings.” This will ensure that employees use their limited travel freedom on the most important trips while going virtual for the majority of meetings, and will also involve the travel manager directly in the management of virtual meeting platforms.

Travel ban for specific types of travel. Large companies with a strong focus on sustainable travel will introduce travel bans for certain types of trips, such as day trips. They will also make it compulsory to use the train or the car for destinations where the flight time is less than one or two hours, for example. This is an interesting development because a corporate buyer can quickly identify how many of these trips the company took in 2019 and then determine how much reduction they can achieve by adjusting the parameters of politics.

Net zero goal acceleration. A few large companies will start experimenting with how they can achieve net zero for business travel much faster than the popular goal of 2030 or later. A potential model for doing this could be to direct the fuel savings made by not traveling towards the purchase of SAF or carbon offsetting until the zero target has been reached. In other words, if a company spent $20 million on air travel in 2019 and only spent $5 million on air travel in 2022, it could allocate $15 million to the purchase of SAF or to carbon offset and effectively achieve net zero immediately and operate with a whole new business travel framework.

Rail operators are starting to work smart together. This is probably the most unrealistic prediction, and I make it to raise awareness of the real gravity of the current situation. During my recent extended stay in Denmark, I tried to plan a trip from Copenhagen to London by train, and the best connection I could find after extensive research would take 15 hours and 31 minutes and require three train changes. , two of which only offered 5 minutes and 8 minutes of platform switching buffer. The distance by rail is only 953 km, so imagine if the rail operators decided to make this trip possible in 8 hours as a planning target – that would probably be enough to move a relevant share of people from the plane to the train and help companies achieve their goal. net zero goals much faster.


This opinion piece is an edited version of Thorsen’s original LinkedIn post, “It’s time for greener air travel – part 5.” It was edited and included in BTN’s What to Watch 2022 with permission from the author.