Travel results in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into our atmosphere. Given the collective global goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, it is crucial that emissions are calculated, reported, and mitigated. This article discusses some of the key considerations around measuring and reporting indirect travel emissions.

Post COVID, travel restrictions have eased, and many have chosen to travel again for private and business purposes.  This fact, along with increased levels of activity, have evidenced themselves with a recorded increase in GHG emissions in 2021, erasing the dip in these emissions during the pandemic in 2020. Sustainable Travel International states that tourism contributes roughly 8 percent to the world’s carbon emissions, half of which is composed of transport emissions, the majority being air transport.  The Science Based Targets initiative expects CO2 emissions from commercial aircraft to triple by 2050.

Business leaders with influence in the transport and travel sectors, have much to consider when compiling their GHG inventory’s. Companies whose main business is to provide the relevant mode of transport to travellers, must report the resulting direct emissions under Scope 1. Companies that have required or related upstream or downstream travel, may choose to report the resulting indirect emissions under Scope 3. Good practice among leading companies includes reporting indirect emissions from business travel. Comprehensive calculation of business travel consumption can extend to include employee commuting – travel between their private residence and their place of work. Also included are travel claims for shuttles between an employee’s private residence or office and airports, or from the airports to the final destination.

Importantly, action to reduce and offset emissions by business and individuals, can only be taken if information is reported. Reporting indirect emissions does not necessarily assign responsibility but provides decision-relevant information.  Perhaps part of the solution lies in the reporting of indirect emissions, whereby consumers can choose travel options supported by responsible business practices. This can include airlines targeting improved carbon intensity through various means (technology, fuel, operational efficiencies, renewed fleets), and sustainable accommodation. Further considerations could be found at the point-of-sale of travel products and services – by providing emissions information, business can empower the customer and allow for offset opportunities. 

Finally, reducing travel emissions extends to the destination, where business and the individual can reduce, reuse, recycle.  More specifically – reduce the use of electricity and water; reduce waste, use of plastics and paper; responsible local procurement from sustainable sources; support sustainable transport where possible and choose public transport where possible.

“Conscious travellers today want to choose greener travel products and are aware of the CO2 emissions that come from flying”, says Esa Talonen, CEO of Ikaalisten Travel Agency.


Written by: Cate Steenkamp