Campaigners have singled out Microsoft, Google, Facebook and a host of other technology and consultancy firms in a ranking of 230 companies. But this approach is a little backward-looking, with scores failing to include initiatives that will heavily impact business trips in the future.
The companies that brought virtual work practices to the masses during the pandemic are, ironically, being heavily criticized in a new report that rates 230 global companies on their efforts to reduce carbon emissions from corporate travel.
Two environmental campaigners have published a ranking, and claim tech giants including Microsoft, Google and Facebook are not “committed to act with sufficient speed and ambition in line with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.”
The ranking is based on nine indicators, relating to emissions reduction targets, reporting, and air travel emissions. Companies have been rated A, B, C or D.
A company with an “A” score has an “absolute reduction commitment for air travel, some of which are aiming for a 50 percent or higher reduction target by 2025,” the campaigners said. These companies have been reporting their business or air travel emissions for more than a year.
Just eight companies (or 3 percent) in the ranking scored an A, with Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk coming out on top, with a 50 percent reduction target by 2025 and transparent reporting of air travel emissions for the past three years, according to the report.
No U.S. company achieved an “A” score, and the U.S. technology sector made up a substantial portion of the lowest ranking companies, with Google, Facebook and Microsoft each earning a “D” for “failing to make meaningful commitments to reduce their corporate air travel,” the campaigners said in a statement.
Apple received a “C” score, and Salesforce received a “B” ranking.
Most global companies have declared company-wide emissions reductions targets, but the campaigners have taken a look at their commitment to reduce corporate air travel emissions by a certain date. “Despite a rapid expansion in the number of companies making ‘Net Zero’ or ‘Climate Neutral’ commitments, this analysis shows only a few companies are committed to reducing emissions from business travel in their climate strategies,” said Gary Cook, corporate campaigns director at Stand.earth.
However, the ranking places a misguided focus on 2019 travel volumes, which seems a little unfair considering many global companies have developed plenty of initiatives over the past two years to cut down on travel in the future, or reevaluate the purpose of business trips.
And at the same time, this compilation coincides with the launch of their new Travel Smart Campaign, which is also backed by a coalition of 12 other groups. However, they also say this new ranking, published earlier this week, is timely as business travel starts to ramp back up after a two year pause.
“Reducing the emissions associated with our employees’ business air travel contributes to our carbon negative commitment,” a spokesperson for Microsoft told Skift, in response to the publication of the report. “As part of our newly increased carbon fee, we charge a $100 fee per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted for business travel. We will continue to increase the annual fee at an accelerated rate.”
Microsoft has also joined the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Association and Eco-Skies Alliance and partnered with Alaska Airlines and SkyNRG, the spokesperson added. Its partnerships and investments in sustainable aviation fuel would help accelerate the development of the SAF market by creating a stable demand signal for investors, increasing supply and over time reducing its cost of SAF, they added.
“We are also committed to working with our suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions through a supplier code of conduct requirement, including promoting reduction of business travel emissions as a key lever.”
Google, meanwhile, told Skift it has been carbon neutral since 2007, and as part of that commitment it offsets all employee business travel and commuting emissions.
“We also work to minimize the need for business travel through encouraging the use of video conferencing tools, like Google Meet, and facilitating sustainable employee commuting options such as public transit, shuttles, carpools, or electric vehicles,” said a spokesperson. “As of 2019, business travel and commuting represents less than 5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions for Google.”
Facebook did not reply to Skift’s request to comment.
The campaigners also seem to single out the tech giants due to their locations. “In California, excess business travel also causes real trouble for the Amazon rainforest, with oil exploration the leading driver of upper Amazon deforestation,” said Denise Auclair, corporate travel campaign manager at Transport & Environment. “According to a recent study by Stand.earth, 50 percent of crude exported from the Amazon region is refined in California — and a substantial portion of that is turned into jet fuel used by airlines flying from Las Angeles and San Francisco.”
Consulting companies, which pre-pandemic were among the biggest spenders on air travel, received varying scores: McKinsey and Accenture received a “D” in the ranking; PWC scored a “B; and EY an “A” rating.
CDP, a global disclosure system, also recently said that just one in 20 companies have “strong targets for emissions, water and zero-deforestation.”
Transport & Environment was founded 30 years ago, and focuses on lobbying in Europe, where it aims to shape environmental laws. It says it has helped create the world’s biggest carbon market for aviation, and last year campaigned for Uber to commit to electrifying much of its European operations.
Stand.earth, formerly known as ForestEthics, was founded 20 years ago and its campaigns challenge “destructive” corporate and governmental practices, while it also calls for greater accountability and solutions for a stable climate.
Photo credit: A new report has analysed commitments to reduce corporate travel. Avel Chuklanov / Unsplash