Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Business travel outside Edinburgh

Business travel is the second biggest cause of the University’s carbon emissions. We are working to understand where our travel emissions come from and how we might be able to reduce them in the future.

As a global university, we rely on international collaboration to achieve the best standards in teaching and research. That means that our staff and occasionally students fly more than 80 million kilometres per year. That’s more than 100 times to the moon and back, or about halfway from the Earth to the Sun.

Over time, our travel emissions have risen significantly to the point that they will likely be the number one cause of our carbon emissions before 2040. In 2016/17, a huge increase in business travel cancelled out all the emissions cut from other parts of our operations.



Flights are responsible for 95% of our travel emissions, and more than half of those are from long-haul international flights where it wouldn’t be easy to take another form of transport.

On the other hand, more than half of our global flights by volume excluding transfers are to London, so it may be possible to make significant savings if staff chose rail over flying to London.

To tackle this challenge, we are working to:

  • Understand the issue through detailed reporting and analysis
  • Investigate potential options to reduce our emissions through qualitative research and a series of small pilot projects
  • Propose a way forward for the University

Roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel

In addition to the above, we are leading a network of over 85 global institutions in a bid to address the growing emissions from business travel within higher education. This collaborative approach supports the sharing of ideas, establishes the scale of business travel emissions within the sector, and offers a platform for open discussion on this challenging topic.

Currently, the roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel network is developing a number of online workshops and discussion groups. The network is open to any higher education institution interested in addressing business travel emissions within their setting.

Find out more about the Roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel


We have created a world-first interactive business travel report that can help everyone to understand travel emissions related to their school or department and those of the University as a whole.

Business travel report


Take action to reduce your Business Travel

Actions for Staff     Actions for Students


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Contact details



Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability
The Boilerhouse
High School Yards

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