Walk the Talk - How EcoVadis is decarbonizing by reducing business travel

May 14, 2024 EcoVadis EN

As a global leader in sustainable business practices, EcoVadis is committed to doing our part to limit global warming to the 1.5 threshold set by the Paris Agreement. By embodying our purpose, “to guide all companies toward a sustainable world”, we encourage and facilitate the decarbonization of our network through tools like the Carbon Action Module. Internally, we have set our own science-based targets to decarbonize our operations and supply chain.

Zooming in on business travel

As a professional services provider, 98% of our 2023 emissions come from scope 3 emissions and almost 30% of those come from business travel. Focusing on reducing these travel-related emissions, therefore, is high up in our priority list. After all, one round trip between Berlin and New York can emit up to 2.3 tons of carbon. That’s over a third of an average EU citizen’s yearly emissions

Setting a carbon budget

To monitor and reduce our business travel emissions, we opted for a carbon budget. It is designed in line with our science-based targets reduction path and aims for a reduction of emissions per employee by 50% compared to 2019. This so-called “intensity” target enables us to pursue the dual goals of company growth and reducing emissions per employee by encouraging efficiency when making business travel decisions. 

Our first carbon budget was set in 2022. In 2024, it is fully integrated into the financial budget, both in terms of process and reporting. Throughout this process, the EcoVadis Impact team continuously facilitates discussions around ambition setting, spearheads the change management process, and makes sure employees have the right tools and information to support decision making. 

Onboarding stakeholders

When it comes to a company-wide carbon budget, every employee is a stakeholder. That’s why a strong change management process is crucial to ensure the success of the roll out. For us, this means offering trainings for employees and managers, regular communication, and leveraging champions in different departments to liaise between the Impact team and their own. 

At first, we worked from the bottom-up to distribute the travel allowance fairly. Each team estimated how much travel they needed throughout the year, and we collaboratively corrected the numbers until they resembled our emissions reduction targets. By now, we have enough data to switch to a top-down approach. Using past consumption data, we directly propose an allowance for each business unit and give them the freedom to allocate it. 

Coming into 2024, we are making the carbon budget non-negotiable. Members of EcoVadis’s Executive Committee will see it taken into account in their final incentives calculations. None of this would have been possible without the support and sponsorship of both our Co-CEOs. 

Overcoming obstacles

No process is without its challenges. For us, the first one is capacitating our employees to manage their carbon budgets. We work together to forecast their travel until they are confident in doing it themselves. This direct communication with business units is helpful to understand their needs. For example, those in Sales need to travel more often to meet with their clients. 

The process needs to be as simple and straightforward as possible. We respect that every business unit already faces competing priorities, whether it’s business development or employee satisfaction. Instead of micromanaging how the carbon budget is being allocated, we give them full responsibility and accountability. Throughout the year, business units are even allowed to trade their carbon budget with other departments if they deem it necessary. 

That being said, there were times that tightening the rules proved necessary. In fact, we overshot our budget in 2023 and had to adjust our methodology in order to avoid making the same mistake twice. 

It’s a journey

Three years after first implementing our travel carbon budget, we are still taking steps to improve. We aim to automate the process through which managers track their team’s carbon emissions and approve flight purchases. 

It is also about changing the way we collaborate in doing business. We are still facing challenges, like how to maintain team spirit and culture with team members scattered across the world. In fact, we are launching a collective thinking challenge this year to crowdsource creative solutions to this conundrum. 

Want to follow in our footsteps? 

If your company is thinking about making your own carbon budget, we understand how the complexity of the topic can be discouraging. Still, we strongly encourage you to give it a try! Things won’t be perfect at first. Our first year, we only had an Excel sheet and a lot of conversations. 

By being transparent and sharing our journey with you, we hope it inspires you to undertake your own. 

About the Author

EcoVadis EN

EcoVadis is a purpose-driven company whose mission is to provide the world's most trusted business sustainability ratings. Businesses of all sizes rely on EcoVadis’ expert intelligence and evidence-based ratings to manage risk and compliance, drive decarbonization, and improve the sustainability performance of their business and value chain. Its AI-powered risk mapping, actionable scorecards, benchmarks, carbon action tools, and insights guide a resilience and improvement journey for environmental, social and ethical practices across 200 industry categories and 175 countries.

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