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Navigating Sustainable Travel
Tunley Environmental15 Feb 20245 min read

How to Navigate Sustainable Travel

We’ve conducted thousands of Business Carbon Assessments over the years, enabling us to identify a recurring theme. Through our experience, we can unequivocally affirm that business travel often stands out as the primary, if not the foremost, contributor to emissions for numerous organisations. This article will share with you the importance of sustainable travel, how to travel sustainably, and the initiatives and organisations that are leading the way in promoting a greener approach to travel.

The Importance of Sustainable Business Travel

In today's globalised world, business travel is essential for many companies. However, it is important for businesses to recognise the environmental impact of their travel activities and take steps to mitigate them. Sustainable business travel involves minimising carbon emissions arising from all associated activities, e.g., using public transport where possible, reducing waste, and supporting local communities. Benefits of adopting sustainable practices include enhancing business reputation, attracting environmentally conscious clients and complying with varying laws around the globe. It also helps companies meet sustainability requirements increasingly requested by other entities within their supply chain.

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Understanding Scope 3 Emissions in Travel

Business travel falls into scope 3 carbon emissions. Scope 3 emissions refer to indirect emissions that occur as a result of an organisation's activities, but are not directly owned or controlled by the organisation. In the context of travel, scope 3 emissions include, as a minimum reporting boundary, emissions from travelling using third party means of transportation, optionally include accommodation, and other travel-related services.

Scope 3 emissions are the most difficult to calculate out of the three scopes. This is because not only do they usually take up 65–95% of most companies' carbon impact, but they also rely on data from different sources such as external suppliers. In the case of business travel, the emissions would need to be calculated for each journey made by each of your employees for any travel for business purposes.

Sustainable Travel Initiatives and Organisations

Fortunately, there are numerous initiatives and organisations that are dedicated to promoting sustainable travel. These organisations work towards reducing carbon emissions, conserving natural resources, and supporting local communities. One such initiative is the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), which sets global standards for sustainable travel and certifies destinations and accommodations that meet these standards. Another organisation making a significant impact is the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), which promotes responsible travel practices and supports sustainable tourism development worldwide.

Tips for Traveling Sustainably

Traveling sustainably doesn't have to be complicated. By making a few simple changes to your travel habits, you can significantly reduce your environmental impact. Here are some tips to help you travel sustainably:

  1. Meet remotely: Switching from in-person to remote meetings where possible will have a considerable impact on business travel for your organisation, especially for cross-continent meetings.
  2. Use public transportation: Whenever possible, opt for public transportation such as trains, buses, or trams instead of private cars or taxis.
  3. Choose eco-friendly accommodations: Look for hotels and accommodations that have eco-certifications or implement sustainable practices such as recycling, energy conservation, and water-saving initiatives.
  4. Support local businesses: Eat at local restaurants, shop at local markets, and engage in activities that support the local economy. This helps to reduce the emissions from imported goods.
  5. Offset your carbon footprint: Consider offsetting the carbon emissions from your travel by investing in carbon offset projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Choosing Eco-Friendly Accommodations

When it comes to choosing accommodations, there are several factors to consider ensuring that you are making an environmentally conscious choice. Look for hotels and resorts that have implemented sustainable practices such as using renewable energy sources, reducing water consumption, and implementing waste management systems. Additionally, eco-certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or Green Key certification can help you identify accommodations that meet specific environmental standards. By supporting eco-friendly accommodations, you can contribute to the growth of sustainable tourism and encourage other establishments to adopt similar practices.

Sustainable Transportation Options for Travelers

Transportation is one of the major contributors to carbon emissions in the travel industry. However, there are several sustainable transportation options available for travellers. The UK government has recently announced the following: “using 2023 estimates of carbon emissions, we estimate that a petrol car journey from London to Glasgow emits approximately 4 times more CO2e per passenger than the equivalent journey by coach.” Consider using public transportation, such as trains or buses, for long-distance travel instead of flying. If flying is necessary, choose airlines that have implemented carbon offset programs or invest in sustainable aviation fuel. For shorter distances, consider walking or cycling.

Offsetting Travel Emissions

Sustainable travel offsetting has emerged as an approach for individuals and organisations to mitigate the environmental impact of their travel. By investing in projects that reduce or capture carbon emissions, such as reforestation initiatives or renewable energy developments, travellers can effectively balance out the carbon footprint generated by their journeys. This not only helps in combating climate change but also contributes to the overall sustainability efforts within the travel industry. Sustainable travel offsetting empowers travellers to take responsibility for their environmental impact. It is worth noting that offsetting should always be a last resort option once you have considered the tangible changes that can be made such as switching to public transport and reducing in-person meetings.

The Bottom Line

Sustainable travel is not just a trend; it is a responsibility that we all share. By adopting sustainable practices, businesses can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a greener future. As individual travellers, we can make conscious choices to reduce our environmental impact. The key is to be mindful of our actions and make informed decisions when it comes to transportation, accommodation, and activities.


We can so all the hard work for you by carrying out a Business Carbon Assessment.