Business travel remains our single largest generator of carbon emissions, and – as we’ve continued to reduce our emissions from energy - has grown to represent 70% of our total carbon footprint in 2015. Air travel accounts for most of this (59% of our total emissions) making it a top sustainability priority.
Business travel is a necessary part of the way we work – our ability to serve our clients largely depends on being able to visit their locations. Nevertheless, we continue to challenge ourselves on the need, frequency and mode of travel.
We’ve set a 2017 target to hold our emissions from business travel flat from our 2007 baseline - even though we expect our business to grow each year. We’re currently exceeding our target, at 11% below 2007 levels, driven by our push to promote alternatives to travel and efficiency improvements by the airlines.
However, in 2015 emissions from our business travel rose by 7%, as a result of the pick-up in the global economy and the increasing international nature of our business, with more of our people travelling overseas to work. This puts pressure on our ability to achieve our target, but we have an approach to help address it.
Our strategy for reducing travel emissions involves both reducing the number of journeys our people make and also looking for less carbon-intensive ways of working.
We've worked to reduce unnecessary business travel, encouraging both internal and client-facing teams to make better use of technology-based alternatives like video conferencing, teleconferencing and online meetings.
And our travel policy encourages our people to use our internal systems to book travel, so we can improve our management information, cost and risk management.
From a sustainability point of view, business travel is a complex issue. It's important for building relationships, which is at the core of our brand and it's also important in the delivery of our services. In certain circumstances travel is a necessity.
But business travel damages the environment and can put a strain on our people's wellbeing, and reducing travel can help cut costs. We want to strike the right balance.
We run several sustainability-related programmes to help our people better understand how their travel impacts the environment and to help them take practical measures to reduce their carbon footprint.
Alternatives to travel
The simplest way to cut emissions caused by travel is to avoid it altogether by making better use of technology to connect us to clients and colleagues. So, in February 2012, we launched a behaviour change campaign to boost the use of online meetings by our people.
This year, we’ve extended this campaign and have now trained over 5,000 of our people, resulting in a 210% year-on-year increase in the use of online meetings to 6.77 meetings per person, per year – considerable progress against, our 2017 target of ten meetings per person, by 2017.
Our travel policy encourages our people to use our internal systems to book travel, giving us greater control over how they travel. And our internal approval process for non-client related travel helps to challenge the assumption that flying is always the best way to work.
In 2012, we refreshed and re-launched a stringent approvals process, requiring all of our people to justify the reason for any internal (non-client facing) flights, and to gain senior management approval prior to purchase. Whilst the approval process doesn’t prevent flying, it helps to challenge our people to think about whether they really need to fly. It’s been a significant contributing factor in reducing our in emissions from non-client facing air travel, which have fallen by 45% since the relaunch, and by 85% from our 2007 baseline.
Low carbon driving
We've continued to raise awareness of low carbon driving options among our staff, promoting hybrid, electric and low carbon vehicles available through our staff company car scheme with the introduction of a wider range of electric vehicles available for lease.
The fleet's reported emissions currently average 120 g/km, below the industry average of 127g/km, and down from 122g/km in 2014. The average emissions for our order bank of replacement vehicles is, officially,118 g/km.
Support for cycling
Our participation in the Government's Cycle to Work scheme in now in its sixth year, allowing us to lend bikes and cycling safety equipment to our people as a tax-free benefit. The scheme had 315 participants this year, as a result of a dedicated campaign, bringing the total to over 1,400 since we began.
We continue to incentivise our people to cycle with mileage payments for work related journeys, as well as making improvements such as new double tier bike racks, extra showers, lockers and an innovative bike repair station in our More London office allowing our staff to keep cycling.
Championing sustainable travel
Our network of travel champions has played an important role in supporting our people to make low carbon travel choices and to promote the use of alternatives to travel where possible.
In addition to our business travel, we have a sizeable carbon impact from our people commuting to work.
Our impact depends, in part, on the nature of our business, including where we recruit our people from, where our people work, and where we locate our offices. We consider sustainability alongside other business needs as part of our real estate strategy and strategic business planning.
But our impact also depends on the choices our people make about whether to visit an office and how best to travel. These decisions have implications not only for our carbon emissions but also for our people’s health and wellbeing, for instance avoiding stressful and tiring journeys, or choosing healthier modes of travel.
As a result, we’ve established a number of programmes which help reduce commuting travel and encourage our people to opt for more environmentally friendly and active forms of commuting. They include our sustainable behaviours campaign which promotes online meetings as an alternative to travel, and our Cycle to Work scheme, as described above.
We’ve been measuring aspects of our commuting for over a decade. Getting accurate, robust data is challenging, but we’ve conducted firm-wide analysis this year which measures the distance and frequency our people commute to different offices as well as the mode by which they travel. This has allowed us to estimate our carbon emissions from commuting as 13,800 tonnes CO2e.
We still have a long way to go to improve the robustness of our commuting data, but it’s already helping us to evaluate our commuting programmes for the future.