Travel needs to widen the sustainability debate.

At a recent travel forum discussing how Travel should operate sustainably in a post COP26 world, now that the awareness of the dangers of global warming and the need for climate action has grown exponentially within our client base, too much time was spent on naval gazing.

I don’t mean to be rude or dismissive but flagging newer aircraft or direct flights as “Greener” options and talking about less regular towel changes, is not going to pass as credible climate action.

The fundamental element of travel is a flight that burns fuel, is Co2 emitting and will be seen as polluting and contributing to Global warming. It’s important we own this truth and although we need to focus on every possible aircraft efficiency, such as using less polluting biofuels, it is unlikely that aircraft flights will ever be a carbon-neutral option in isolation.

It is my belief that travel needs to widen the debate and position the option of reducing personal travel, in context to the other ways individuals and business can reduce their carbon footprints.

The graph above shows that travel represents 12% of an individual’s carbon footprint, but driving an “Internal Combustion Engine” (I.C.E) car powered by polluting fossil fuels, such as petrol or diesel, causes 29% of emissions annually. More than double their annual travel impact.  

A lot of people are put off moving to EV’s, because they are on average 25% more expensive than their ICE equivalents currently and by range anxiety due to an inadequate national charging network. Both issues however are solvable as long as employers are willing to assist.

The Government has introduced massive tax breaks worth 32-42% off the cost of a personal lease depending on an employee’s tax bracket. However, these savings are only available via an employer operated “Salary Sacrifice Schemes” (SSS),  where the employer leases the car and deducts the cost from a staff members salary before Tax.

Employers have an incentive to do this in the form of 15% NI (2022 rate) savings and being able to claim half the 20% VAT back on the lease, creating a net saving of £250 on every £1,000 spent. In turn, part of this saving can be used to take out “Revenue Assurance” against any empty leases caused by staff leaving, which removes virtually all the risk of operating a SSS scheme.

Effectively these schemes make EV’s 20% cheaper to lease than ICE equivalents, even before the 66% reduction in fuel bills from the cheaper electricity power source and 25% lower maintenance costs are considered.

Range anxiety for EV owners who have a home charger is mainly a myth, since 95% of charging is done at home, as the average 200 range of an EV, is more than enough to cope with the daily commute. However, employers need to ensure that office charging is bookable and made available on a priority basis for staff living in flats or housing where home charging is not possible, and staff need to accept infrequent longer journeys need to be made by train.

The move to EV’s is clearly possible with the assistance of employers and will progress rapidly in the UK.

A further 41% of personal emissions come from home space and water heating, but this is a more complex topic to deal with, as the Government has yet to issue an incentive program to encourage people to abandon Gas water heaters. However, the recent 600% increase in Gas prices is likely to do the job for them and many people are already looking at alternatives such as ground source heat pumps and electric boilers.

As an industry, I think we need to widen the emissions debate and show that customers can continue to travel “guilt-free” if they move to reduce 60% of their emissions by moving to an EV and sorting out domestic emissions, which are both far higher elements of their carbon footprints.

Overseas travel is proven to benefit mental health and bread increased cultural understanding and tolerance. We should not lose sight of these virtues and offset these against the emissions damage travel causes, BUT only if we encourage alternative reductions and lead by example as employers.

If you’re a travel business that has not looked at implementing an EV Salary Sacrifice scheme to create a “Green Fleet” of employers who take an EV as a perk of employment rather than a business necessity, then you should.

EV’s are set to become a key recruitment/retention tool and moving 50% of staff to a Green fleet EV will on average move a business 62% closer to becoming Carbon Neutral.

In order for travel to widen the sustainability debate and preach the benefits of continuing to travel, despite its inherent polluting nature, we need to make sure outside of flight itself we have done everything possible to move both our own business and destination partners towards being carbon neutral. Again, an easy solution is to insist on electric coach’s, taxis, or airport ground handling.

The future is Green, but travellers can be educated to alternatives to simply travelling less.