Reduce the impact of business travel

Travelling to different sites for work purposes is a major source of carbon emissions and expenses for some businesses.

SMEs can reduce their impact by eliminating unnecessary trips, planning routes and switching modes of transport where possible.


  1. Get benefits from reduced business travel
  2. Calculate your business travel carbon footprint
  3. Create a green business travel programme
  4. Find finance and support

Get benefits from reduced business travel

Though some business travel is essential and can’t be replaced, there are benefits to reducing the amount and type of trips you take.

This type of travel includes:

  • going to different branches or locations
  • attending training, conferences and workshops
  • making site visits or inspections

The benefits of reducing business travel include:

  • saving on mileage reimbursements, airfare and accommodations
  • increasing efficiency of business operations
  • reduction in carbon footprint
  • improved sustainability credentials

This type of travel is for business purposes and does not include how employees typically get to work.

Visit ‘Switch employee modes of transport’ for guidance on commuting.

Calculate your business travel carbon footprint

Get started by working out how much yearly business travel usually takes place, and how much it costs.

If you know the distance travelled by car, train, plane or other method you can use a travel emissions calculator to work out the impact.

It can be helpful to use a time period prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to get a more accurate baseline.

Once you have a baseline you can set a target to reduce costs and carbon emissions.

Create a green business travel programme

Once you have set targets to reduce the impact, you can:

  1. Explain the measures you’re planning to take.
  2. Lay out the incentives and restrictions for employees.
  3. Define how progress will be monitored and who is responsible.
  4. Promote the plan and educate employees on its importance.

You can use a third party to calculate and report your travel emissions. They can help you identify lower carbon options, such as low carbon hotels, and invest the booking fee in aviation biofuels.

Use a travel hierarchy

It can be helpful to create a business travel hierarchy when implementing a green business travel programme .

Instead of an employee using a private car for travel, they could:

  • make a phone call or meet via videoconference
  • use public transport or rail travel
  • lease or hire an electric vehicle
  • use a pool car
  • ride a bike

Allow employees to use private vehicles only as a last resort.

Replace travel with online meetings

Encourage staff to consider if business travel is necessary.

In some cases it is unavoidable but there is growing comfort with online meetings and remote work.

A Morgan Stanley study found that up to quarter of business travel in 2022 is expected to be replaced by video conferencing.

It also makes sense to offer work from home where possible.

For effective virtual meetings you may need to invest in good cameras and microphones.

It is also worth establishing guidelines around appropriate dress codes and backgrounds to ensure everyone is clear on the standards you expect from them.

Research by Stanford University has shown that work from home can:

  • increase productivity and economic growth up to 5%
  • improve employee retention up to 35%
  • help recruit a more diverse and inclusive workforce

According to this research the most popular option is a hybrid system where employees can work from home and on site.

Reduce amount and type of air travel

When air travel is necessary you can limit the impact by:

  • flying economy instead of business class
  • choosing lower emissions airlines
  • taking direct flights
  • choosing more sustainable hotels

You can also buy carbon offsets through either an offset provider, a project directly, or through a company offering offsets as part of their package of goods or services.

Note that offsets are not regulated by the government and you need to make sure they credibly remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Travel by bus or rail

Travelling by bus or rail is less carbon intensive than flying or driving a petrol or diesel vehicle.

According to UK government research, the average climate impact (in kgCO2e) for a trip between London and Glasgow shows that a petrol car emits around 4 times more CO2e per passenger than the equivalent journey by coach:

  • 155 by plane
  • 90 by petrol car
  • 27 by train
  • 21 by coach

Bus and rail can also be faster and cheaper for short trips, and employees can catch up on work while taking the bus or train.

Prioritise public transport connections to and from your workplace by creating signage to indicate the nearest train or bus station.

The European Commission (EC) has already given France approval to ban short in-country flights where rail alternatives take 2.5 hours or less.

Several other European countries are proposing similar bans.

It is not clear if this will happen in the UK but it makes sense to look into bus and train options if travelling in-country.

Use electric vehicles

When travel by car is best for a trip, use electric vehicles (EVs) where possible.

The driving range of EVs is growing and charging is faster and more convenient than in the past.

You can hire an EV for a wide range of time periods, starting with a few hours.

Visit our pages to find out more about incentives for switching to EVs and installing vehicle chargepoints at your workplace.

Join a car club

Car clubs offer instant access to cars in and around your local area without the need for you to own a car yourself. In a car club you only pay a subscription to access vehicles and a fee as you drive.

Club cars are generally newer than the average UK car, which means they tend to be more efficient. Electric vehicles are available in car clubs too.

You can provide information about car clubs to employees and take out a business subscription for one.

Find car club car options throughout the UK.

Encourage lift sharing

Lift sharing between employees can save money on fuel costs and reduce the mental stress of driving.

Visit GOV.UK for information on a ‘passenger payment’ of 5p per passenger, per business mile for carrying fellow employees in a car or van on journeys which are also work journeys for them.

You can set up an online calendar showing who is going where and when to promote car-sharing.

Use Traveline to plan journeys anywhere in the UK.

Offer company bikes

Employers and employees can also benefit financially by offering a cycling scheme for business travel purposes.

These allow an employer to provide bikes to their employees for the purpose of work trips.

Employees can deduct the costs from their before-tax income, and employers can reduce their National Insurance Contributions.

It is estimated that employers can save £25 to £80/month for each bike that’s registered with the scheme.

You can administer a scheme yourself or use services such as:

Visit GOV.UK for full guidance on cycle to work schemes.

Find finance and support