Business travel

The ability to travel easily between countries to research, collaborate and share knowledge has helped form our position as an international University.

However, in 2018/19 business travel was responsible for 13,427 tonnes of CO2e. This makes it our second highest source of measured greenhouse gas emissions after the energy used to operate our buildings and estate. We need to reduce this.

Covid-19 has shown there is potential to do things differently. With the added context of the climate crisis and net-zero commitments, we are going to create new approaches to internationalisation.

A New Approach: The Travel Hierarchy

There is no longer any question that we need to build a “new normal” to help reduce emissions. The Travel Hierarchy is an approach to determine whether a journey is necessary, and if so, which is the most carbon efficient.

Whenever it is possible, using phone, email, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or another form of video conferencing causes the least environmental impact.

If travelling is required, walking or cycling as an option that is not only good for the environment, but good for your mental and physical health. If the journey is too long to walk or cycle, consider public transportation in your area for part or all of your trip. If the only option is to drive, consider car sharing.

When travelling within the UK, remember that flying domestically emits over five times as much CO2e as travelling by rail. If you must fly internationally, keep in mind that direct flights minimize carbon emissions, and flying economy rather than first class reduces your carbon footprint on top of saving you money.

If you have any ideas on how we can reduce business travel emissions at the University of Leeds, we would love to hear from you! Email with ‘Business Travel’ as the subject line.

Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is the concept of negating (offsetting) the same amount of carbon emissions that have been produced, with investments into renewable energy sources such as solar / wind energy or planting trees. After consulting the travel hierarchy and travel is still required, the following guidance can be used to determine the cost of carbon offsetting travel for research grants.

View the Research Grants: Calculating your Carbon Offsetting Cost here.


United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on business travel is linked to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 4: Quality education
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Goal 13: Climate action

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.