Skift Take

With the search engine also publishing the methodology and framework for other travel sellers to adopt, there's a greater chance that carbon emissions data will eventually become standardized, and less confusing. But there's still a long way to go.

Google is using a new method to collect and display flight emissions data that’s been developed by Travalyst, marking the latest step in the coalition’s efforts to push bookers towards making more sustainable travel choices.

Not-for-profit Travalyst, a global partnership founded by the Duke of Sussex, encourages greener practices across the industry. In 2019, Prince Harry brought together TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner, and Visa, with Google only joining in September last year.

A month later, Google began displaying carbon emissions estimates for searches made on Google Flights, and noted in a blog post it was helping to develop an open model for calculating carbon emissions from air travel with Travalyst.

On Wednesday, Google published a free “Travel Impact Model” for emissions estimates that further details the Travalyst framework — a move designed to encourage wider industry adoption.

Skyscanner also joins Google to start using the framework on its platform for consumers, and Travalyst said it had been instrumental in its development. 

The adoption by the pair follows a recent scientific study that has highlighted how ineffective carbon offsetting has become. “We know that one of the barriers to consumers making better choices is a lack of visibility and overly complicated information, leading to confusion,” said Travalyst CEO Sally Davey.

“By delivering clear and consistent tools for collecting and reporting airline data, we are helping travelers and the industry to make more informed — and lower emitting — air travel choices. It is hugely significant that our partners have reached agreement on this framework and will be using the same data across all of their platforms,” added.

Although Google will act as a technology provider and make it possible for more platforms to easily display carbon estimates using the Travel Impact Model, other calculators and tactics are already taking hold, particularly in the corporate travel industry.

More agencies and booking tools are starting to display carbon footprint data, with SAP Concur and CWT the latest to use data provided by Thrust Carbon. Companies like Microsoft, meanwhile, are turning to penalizing business trips with a hefty fee.  

Travalyst’s remaining four travel distribution partners have confirmed their intention to adopt and implement the model, and it’s likely more brands will follow suit with Google now onboard.

Tags: booking.com, carbon emissions, carbon offsets, climate change, google, online booking, otas, skyscanner, sustainability, trip.com

Photo credit: Prince Harry, left, at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, 20 January 2020. DFID - UK Department for International Development / Flickr