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How can carbon offsets make a difference to the climate impact of travel?
Explore the impact of carbon offsets on travel emissions and the importance of funding climate action. Discover how businesses can make a dent in their carbon footprint and create a sustainable travel industry.
We're always excited when our users are just as dedicated to improving the impact of travel as we are!
Supporting Sustainability champions like 5 Media in achieving Net Zero travel is our main objective - and planting trees to compensate for emissions is only one part of making travel truly sustainable.
In this piece written by Sarah Drumm, we get a look at the state of business travel emissions, how we can return to travel mindful of our carbon footprint, and how diverting revenues to fund climate action is essential if we want to make a dent in our collective travel emissions.
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Article Preview: How big a dent can carbon offsets make in the climate impact of travel?
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As business travel gets going again following Covid shutdowns, the industry faces pressure to reduce its environmental impact. Planting trees to compensate for emissions is only one part of that picture – but it could be a much bigger part, and the founder of a new kind of booking platform is determined to prove it.
After two years of stopping and starting thanks to the various iterations of Covid, it looks like business travel is back on the cards. The question is: at what cost?
Pre-pandemic, our collective flying habits were estimated to represent 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And while this number might sound small overall, for companies that sell services rather than physical products – think consultants, software companies or design agencies – it often represents a colossal portion of their overall carbon footprint.
Take professional services firm PwC. In 2019, business travel accounted for almost 90% of its carbon emissions. In the same year, Salesforce employees racked up 146,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions, all through travel.
Is offsetting enough?
Carbon offsets are increasingly popular in the travel industry as airlines look for ways to tempt environmentally conscious customers. But they’re controversial. Critics say they give travellers a free pass to keep polluting the atmosphere, and question the rigour of schemes that rely on trees being planted on the other side of the world. This is why Goodwings only supports verified reforestation schemes, where credits represent a volume of CO2 that trees have already removed from the atmosphere – rather than an estimated amount that newly planted trees are predicted to remove in future. The company is a certified B Corp, meaning its environmental impact is externally measured and verified.
“We need to transform the industry to become more circular”
Goodwings doesn’t profit directly from flights or offsets, because the commission it earns is from hotel bookings – not the modes of transport a customer chooses to get to and from their destination. It also makes part of its money from subscription fees, starting at $49 per month, to access the platform. “We don’t need to make money from the bookings, we can live great on the subscriptions alone,” says Møller-Holst. “It creates a more healthy relationship between us and our clients.”
If anything, Goodwings would be more profitable if its customers chose to travel more sustainably, says Møller-Holst, as it could then spend less of its commission on covering their offsets. With this in mind, the company is working on new ways it can help companies to make travel greener.
Illustrations: Ciara Quilty Harper