For other companies, Hansen encourages action even if the data isn’t as available as it was at AT Kearney. “It’s overwhelming for most firms, but they don’t need to start globally like we did,” she says. “If you have the data — even at a regional or country level — you can do it.” As for companies that may lose interest in green travel practices amid the economic turmoil, she has a harsher message: “If you don’t have a planet, what’s an economic downturn? The clock is ticking.”
Gabor Taroczy is an intern at CFO Europe.
The environment won’t be the only beneficiary of business travellers trimming their carbon footprints. Europe’s railways could get a boost as more corporate policies eschew carbon-intensive road and air travel. As the International Union of Railways (UIC) points out, rail travel emits three to ten times less CO2 than road or air travel. But frequent travellers need a lot of convincing before they give up on amassing airmiles or cruising in a comfortable company car.
To make the trade-offs clear, in June the Paris-based UIC unveiled EcoPassenger.com, an online tool for travellers to assess various modes of transport. Unlike other “calculators,” of which there are many, EcoPassenger “tells the whole story [of a journey], looking at the whole chain of energy consumption, not just the travel from point A to point B,” says Margarethe Sagevik, a senior adviser at the UIC. Also included is the energy used to produce the electricity or fuel for the plane, train or car and the journey to the airport or railway station. The tool also provides timetables and maps to identify the most direct routes.
Taking several years to develop, the UIC called on assistance from a range of supporters, including the German Institute for Environment and Energy, to get the “hard-core values of consumption” down to, for example, the different types of trains used on a journey. “We only wanted to make the best tool possible. Otherwise there would be no point,” says Sagevik. “Having worked in the environmental department [of the UIC] for the past six years, I’m seeing how the agenda is changing and now we have to deliver.”
But Sagevik insists that the EcoPassenger tool isn’t intended solely to promote Europe’s railways. “We just want to teach people that they have a choice,” she says.