How to reduce you and your business's carbon flight footprint
How to reduce your carbon flight footprint
Richard Tarboton, Director of Strategic Services, at Carbon Credentials, energy performance and carbon management experts, shares his tips on how businesses and leaders can lower their air travel emissions, with a smarter, low-carbon business travel policy.
Over the next decade flights will become the biggest contributor to the carbon footprint of many businesses, as buildings are increasingly supplied by renewable energy and vehicles move to electric. Flights are now the highest carbon purchase that an individual makes and air travel accounts for over 70% of a company’s total carbon footprint in some sectors.
By introducing a smarter travel policy that reassesses ways of working, European business chiefs can balance business growth and client demand for face-to-face interaction against an urgent need to reduce travel emissions. Benefits will be reaped on their bottom line, employee wellbeing and company reputation improved, and a rising demand for low carbon flights will accelerate advances in aviation technology.
A smarter travel policy
A smarter travel policy must optimise the frequency of travel required with senior management leading by example. Assess ways to reduce unnecessary business travel – for example, can you combine several meetings into one trip? Can you replace the meeting with video conferencing or an alternative form of low carbon travel? Consider, if possible, caps on the number of flights per year.
Fundamental to the successful adoption of any smart travel policy though, will be a change in the mindset of employees and overseas clients who have come to expect conversations in person.
To shift mindsets, talk about the reduction in business travel in a holistic way, for example, not just the positives to the environment but the financial, safety and wellbeing benefits of less travel. Discuss your new policy with clients before implementing to ensure they’re on board without any surprises. They may follow suit! Capture feedback and internal insights to show the impact of this change to the business and client experience.
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Efficient air travel
Where flying is the only option, impose a booking criteria within your internal corporate travel policy for staff to choose the lowest carbon flights possible as not all flights are equal in their carbon emissions, with some now 40% lower than average. Factors affecting their efficiency include aircraft design, fuel burn, load factor, flight haul and passenger class.
Information on the carbon emissions of different flights is still difficult to obtain when booking flights and this is something that we are talking with airlines about to allow customers to choose lowest carbon flights. Some sites such as Skyscanner are recommending the lowest carbon flights for each route.
Where possible, choose a two-engine versus a four-engine plane and staff should book lower carbon seats. Businesses can make substantial reductions in flight emissions through encouraging their employees to take economy rather than business class or first-class flights. For example, for an average long-haul flight, business class emits 434 gCO2e/passenger kilometre and first class emits 599 gCO2e/passenger kilometre versus 150 gCO2e/passenger kilometres on economy – so four times greater emissions for first class vs economy according to recent DEFRA guidelines.
Some progress has been made in sustainable aviation fuel, hybrid and fully electric planes. Cape Air flies electric passenger flights from Boston to Cape Cod, and new aircraft are being designed that are three to five times more efficient in their weight, design and engine technology. London Heathrow airport also recently announced plans to award the first airline to land electric planes at Heathrow, free landing fees for a year.
But there is still some way to go before electric and hybrid flights are commonplace on long and even short haul flights. This isn’t helped by the lack of data transparency on carbon emission levels on flights, which we’re currently trying to tackle by working on a concept to provide accurate carbon flight data at a route level so individuals and businesses can make better informed choices when booking flights.
However, the more businesses and individuals that take an active role in using low carbon travel and value low carbon flights, the greater the demand on the aviation industry to advance airline technology at a faster pace – action we need if Europe is to be net zero by 2050.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.