Sustainability is a growing emphasis in the corporate world and in the business travel industry. But companies throw around many different sustainability terms that may be difficult to understand or differentiate from one another.
Here’s a brief guide to sustainability terms and what they mean in the context of business travel.
In simplest terms, sustainability is meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. For example, the modern world consumes energy for the heating and cooling of homes, for manufacturing, for transportation, etc. Sustainable energy use means consuming without sacrificing the ability of future generations to also heat and cool homes, manufacture goods, move around the world, etc.
Business travel exists to help companies create value. Employees get on planes to meet prospects and sign new clients, to provide services and counsel to existing clients, and to meet with each other to make key decisions that require face-to-face interaction.
Sustainability in business travel means creating that value without sacrificing the ability of future generations to also create value through business travel.
The operations of any business create a carbon footprint. Carbon neutrality is when a business takes action to offset that carbon footprint in a 1:1 ratio. Whatever it does to create a carbon footprint, it takes other actions to offset that carbon footprint exactly. The purchase of carbon offset credits is one of the most popular ways to achieve neutrality.
In the business travel world, a company would need to calculate its travel-related carbon footprint — the emissions related to flights, rental car usage, etc. It would then purchase carbon offset credits (or otherwise offset that footprint) to achieve neutrality.
Some companies may want to go beyond carbon neutrality. If a company chooses to offset even more than its carbon footprint related to general operations or specifically to business travel. The company could become carbon negative by purchasing more offset credits than required for neutrality.
Climate positive is a term that means the same thing as carbon negative.
A carbon-positive company is one that does not fully offset its footprint to achieve neutrality. Some companies may try to offset as much as possible only to find that they don’t have the capacity or resources to achieve full neutrality. Others may not make any attempt to offset their carbon footprint. In either case, these companies would be considered carbon positive.
The same is true here: Climate negative is interchangeable with carbon positive.
The phrase “low carbon” is generally used to describe a company that meets its energy needs through clean and less carbon-intensive resources. This might include solar, hydroelectric or wind power for business operations.
In a business travel sense, low carbon would include anything that helps avoid intensive fossil fuel use — like choosing flights with sustainable aviation fuel, using electric rental cars, etc.
Net Zero Carbon
A net zero carbon organization is one that uses only renewable energy sources. It’s difficult to create a business travel program that is net zero carbon, as it’s currently difficult to take commercial flights that use 100% renewable energy sources.
Net Zero Emissions
Net zero emissions is a similar concept to carbon neutrality, though it goes a little further. While carbon neutrality describes offsetting a carbon footprint entirely. Net zero emissions means achieving a state where all greenhouse gas emissions are offset by greenhouse gas removed from the atmosphere.
Make Sense of Sustainable Travel
Your company is likely working toward sustainability goals. Is your travel program prepared to help reach those goals?
At JTB Business Travel, we work with companies large and small to help them maximize their investment in business travel — while also helping them achieve related objectives like sustainability. We take a common-sense approach to every service we provide and every recommendation we make.
Get in touch to learn more about how we can help with your travel program’s sustainability goals.