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From Jet Set to Green Set

Corporate Environmental Programs: How can utility employees participate in greenhouse-gas reduction? Start with sustainable travel programs.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2005

more climate-conscious travel behavior. Considering that climate impact of travel directly correlates with costs, this could mean that even a small change of actual travel behavior creates immediate cost reductions. Thus, a sustainable travel service becomes a travel cost-management tool, encouraging employees to plan more climate-friendly and less costly travel.

Fourth, a sustainable travel service creates sustainable values. As part of the service, a corporate user of that service obtains emission-reduction credits that can be used for corporate social responsibility reporting, in a voluntary program, for public relations purposes, or both. In addition, the service improves the demand for clean energy, drives innovation in the travel services industry toward sustainability, and reduces climate change.

What Is the Benefit?

Offering such services becomes a no-brainer for travel service providers as soon there is a real demand for such service. As with any other customer-driven product innovation, providing it will increase customer loyalty and sales.

The utility industry's roughly 600,000 employees generate substantial travel. Demand for a sustainable travel service could be all that is needed to encourage travel service providers to innovate and offer such service to all their clients.

What does that mean in numbers? In 2003, 38 million Americans traveled for business, generating 210 million trips, spending $153 billion, and generating roughly 100 million tons of CO 2 emissions-equivalent to 5 percent of all transport-related emissions.

Assuming a market potential of 10 percent for a sustainable travel service, U.S. business travel could generate roughly $100 million per year for emission-reduction credit purchases that would leverage clean-energy investments of roughly $1 billion (this calculation is based on the experienced leverage of the value of emission reduction credits to total investment costs).

Case Studies

A number of small-scale initiatives in the United States and other countries already demonstrate the concept, usually without the participation of travel service providers. Just one partnership between Portland, Ore.-based Nike along with Delta Airlines created $25,000 in revenue that was invested into energy efficiency investments within the Portland school system.

Furthermore, a sustainable fuel-card initiative implemented by BP in Australia created sufficient revenue to fund projects that have thus far reduced over 800,000 tons of CO 2.

Washington, D.C.-based travel agent UFX Travel/American Express operates the 1-877-MYCLIMATE free call number and offers a sustainable corporate travel management service that includes CO 2 accounting, reporting, and management for all trips booked through a business account.

In the absence of any other regulatory incentive, the mainstreaming of supply and demand for sustainable travel services is likely to mobilize significant new resources for clean-energy investments. The energy industry-which has one of the highest burdens to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions-would be a primary beneficiary of such investments. Therefore, utilities are uniquely positioned to stimulate the demand for such environmental services through their own demand for travel management services.