Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Business Travel

Travel is an integral part of working in both academia and support groups. It brings opportunities for collaboration, which are important, impactful and necessary.

At the same time, travel has a significant environmental and financial impact. This guidance offers advice on how to choose the most carbon efficient travel mode and promotes non-travel solutions that help save time and costs.

For the 2015/16 academic year, business travel emissions were 15,000 tCO2e, representing the third highest source of carbon emissions at the University after gas and electricity. Flights make up 94% of our travel emissions.

Thinking differently about the way we travel can help reduce our environmental impact while maintaining the value of outside contact and connections.

Why it matters

If you’re interested in cutting your carbon footprint, then sustainable travel may be a great way to start.

Travelling more sustainably might have a bigger environmental impact than other things you can do at work. This is because many academic and professional staff have the freedom to make travel choices.

What you can do

Conference Call / Phone / Email / Video conference > Cycle / Walk > Public transport > Car share > In a car alone > Taxi >Flight
Travel hierarchy: Conference Call / Phone / Email / Video conference > Cycle / Walk > Public transport > Car share > In a car alone > Taxi > Flight

Choosing more sustainable travel options does not necessarily have to cost more, or take more time. 

The Travel Hierarchy gives an overview of the carbon efficiency of different modes of transport.

Overall, from an environmental perspective, it is best to use phone, email or video conferencing. 

Where travel is necessary and walking or cycling is not feasible, consider public transport, with a preference for taking the train for longer journeys. When driving is the only practical option, consider car sharing. 

Flying domestically emits over five times as much CO2e and often costs more than travelling by train. 

Your choices

Video conferencing

The easiest and most efficient way to reduce emissions from business travel is by collaborating digitally. 

This decreases financial costs by avoiding payment for the journey, improving staff productivity and reducing environmental costs by minimising CO2 emissions.

If your journey can be avoided through a video conference, local computer video software, a telephone conference or a telephone call, then this may be the most efficient choice. 

The University offers a range of tools for video conferencing. These are suitable for 1-to-1 meetings all the way up to hosting presentations to 200 guests or meeting large groups (up to 20 participants) from one location. Some of the key features are outlined in the table below, and you can find out more about each of these tools via the Information Services website or VScene (External Website).  

Feature

  Skype for Business     

Collaborate Ultra    

VScene

Pre-defined Roles (e.g. presenter, moderator, participant)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Breakout Rooms

No

Yes

No

Polls

Yes

Yes

Yes

Whiteboard

Yes

Yes

Yes

Screensharing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Live captioning for hearing impaired

No

Yes

No

User slide presentation

Yes

Yes

No

Transfer any file type

Yes

No

No

Invite external guests

Yes

Yes

Yes

Integrated with Learn, Moodle and MyEd

No

Yes

No

Integrated with Office365

Yes

No

No
Allows Guests (no login required) Yes No Yes
Live-stream to external sources No No Yes
Chat Function  Yes Yes Yes
Continuous Virtual Spaces  No No Yes

 

In addition to local systems such as Skype for Business and Blackboard Collaborate, there are a number of centrally managed high-end video conferencing suites, as well as several local suites managed by Schools and Departments around the University.

The suites can be booked through an online platform and support is offered on the University website.

 

Skype for Business  Blackboard Collaborate  VScene (external website) 

Dedicated Virtual Conferencing Pods

In order to increase the use of virtual collaboration across the University, we are supporting schools and departments to adapt existing spaces into virtual conferencing pods. These are small spaces that can be used to communicate virtually - either using the technology provided, or with users own technology (e.g. laptop or tablet). In addition, these pods allow a quieter space for phone calls to take place. Current pods are located at:

  • Room 1.60, Roslin Institute, Easter Bush
  • Room C3.30, Queen's Medical Research Institute (QMRI), Little France
  • Resource Centre, 50 George Square (expected to be ready for use in October 2019)

These are manged by local teams and can be booked via their corresponding Outlook Calendar. 

We are looking for more spaces across the University for this purpose. If you would like to become involved in this pilot, please contact us.

Reducing your travel needs

When travel is necessary, it may be possible to reduce emissions by cutting the total number of journeys. 

For example, you could:

  • Bundle up meetings – try to schedule multiple meetings into one journey and consider staying overnight if all meetings cannot happen on the same day.
  • Check if any colleagues are attending events in the same country and could represent your interests.

Where we fly

This map shows the most popular destinations for flights paid for by the University. The final destinations are shown, as we have removed connecting flights from the map.

Travelling to London

Journeys to London account for the majority of flights at the University of Edinburgh.

Based on 5 years of University data, travel to London by train was at around 40% cheaper and is about five-times better for the environment.

The difference in cost is particularly apparent when the whole cost of travel is considered, including such expenses as the transfer to and from airports. 

A train journey to London can take as little as four hours, so while it will not always be possible to get there for a 9 o’clock meeting, it may be worth considering taking at least one leg of your trip by rail.

Going further

Consider asking the organiser if a meeting can start later to accommodate your schedule when travelling by train.

Travelling elsewhere

The class in which you travel also has an impact on carbon emissions from your journey.

This due to the additional space taken up by seats in higher classes, compared to economy. 

The higher the class you travel, the more emissions you are responsible for