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Sustainability Guide for Work-Related Flights

Is it justified to fly to meetings, conferences or other work-related trips? This guide helps you to decide. By asking a series of questions relating to the purpose, conditions and alternatives to the trip, you can see whether the benefits of flying outweigh the climate and local environmental impacts of the flight(s).

When is air travel justified?

In general, air travel for work-related purposes is justified when the sustainability benefit outweighs the sustainability cost of the trip. Obviously, this is difficult to evaluate, for example how do you trade off ecological damage and social benefit? And where should be the bench mark if you know that only 5% of the global population participate in air travel?This tool helps the user to evaluate all aspects of the proposed business trip, and thus to plan air travel in a responsible manner. It supports informed decision making and helps to think about aspects of the trip that may help to balance benefits and costs of the trip.

How to use the Sustainability Guide for Work-Related Flights?

The evaluation starts with key parameters: the overall objective of the trip, the duration of the trip and the travel distance. In addition the trip is evaluated by asking a series of seven questions covering different aspects of sustainability. For each aspect up to 4 points can be obtained. Supportive questions to each aspect give guidance what could be worth a point. The resulting overall rating gives an indication of whether the trip is planned in a responsible manner or whether the trip should be modified from a sustainability point of view.


The tool has been developed for work-related flights. Flights for private reasons may need other key parameters, weightening and supportive questions. However, even for non-work flights, this Guide will provide food for thought.


Key Parameters of the Air Travel


Trips without clearly defined objectives can only by accident serve the business and sustainability.
Trips without overnight stays provide limited opportunities for intercultural exchange and fostering of good relationships. Longer trips create more opportunities for positive sustainability engagement in the trip schedule as an "off-set" for the negative environmental aspects of the air travel. Round trips combining more projects share the ecological burden.
This differentiation has ecological reasons: Short distance flights up to 800km have the worst climate effect, as start and landing are very fuel intensive and cannot be levelled out by the short cruise mode of the trip. If available - alternatives should be considered. Middle distance flights up to 3800 km have a much better result per flight kilometre due to the longer cruise mode. Long distance flights over 3800 km show again worse results as larger amounts of fuel have to be carried with.

Scoring of Sustainability Aspects

1) Environmental aspects

1.1 Climate protection: Have measures been taken to minimise CO2-emissions from the trip?

Give yourself a score of between 0 and 4, based on questions such as

- does the meeting location allow shortest possible travel distance for all participants?

- is there no reasonable alternative to air travel?

- have CO2 emission been minimized (most direct flight, most ecological airline)?

- have CO2 emission been compensated by a trusted carbon offsetting scheme?

1.2 Resource conservation: Are food, accommodation and transport at the destination appropriate when compared to local conditions?

Give yourself a score of between 0 and 4 based on questions such as

- is food and accommodation in line with living standards of the local middle class?

- are means of transportation in line with living standards of the local middle class?

- do restaurants/hotels respect environmental standards / local ecological capacity (eco-labels)?

- is the catering regional, seasonal, bio-fair and at least partially vegetarian?

2) Social aspects

2.1 Does the travel schedule foster reliable, long-term personal relationships?

Give yourself a score of between 0 and 4, based on questions such as

- is the trip part of a long-term collaboration / larger joint undertaking?

- is time included for informal gatherings and socialising?

- does the trip help to develop key relationships where talking face to face will make a big difference?

- is there a joint task / working experience planned as part of the trip?

2.2 Does the travel schedule foster intercultural exchange at eye-level and an in-depth experience of the local culture?

Give yourself a score of between 0 and 4, based on questions such as

- are visits to local cultural events or (historic) places or time for cultural exchange planned?

- will catering include local ingredients (where possible, fair trade) and recipes?

- will the program include an introduction to local customs and intercultural awareness?

- does the schedule foresee joint/social experiences with local / program partners?

3) Economical aspects

3.1 Are fair working conditions guaranteed for people employed in transport, hotels and restaurants?

Score between 0 and 4 points, based on questions such as

- high standards of occupational health and safety at the working places

- adequate pay and working hours (ILO-convention, minimal wages / living wages)

- right for labourers to organize themselves (ILO-convention)

- does the trip foster sustainable business practices of local partners and service-providers?

3.2 Apart from the cost of the flights, will the host country gain most benefit from the trip (financial benefit, taxes, ...)?

Score between 0 and 4 points, based on questions such as

- is most of the travel budget spent for services by local companies?

- do the service providers (food, accommodation, transport, ...) pay their tax in the host country?

- do the service providers engage in training of their workforce and offer permanent jobs?

- does the objective of the trip foster the development of a healthy, independent local economy?

4) Sustainability overall

4.1 Does the trip trigger subsequent activities in the home and the host country, which foster a more sustainable world?

Score between 0 and 4 points, based on questions such as

- will the trip lead to changed practices in sustainability in the home and the host country?

- does the trip contribute to environmental protection (climate, resources, overall awareness)?

- does the trip contribute to international understanding (respect, meeting face-to-face)?

- "Bonus point" - optional extra point for another tangible sustainability measure not reflected above.


Total of 28 possible points 0


Overall Sustainability Score of the Trip

Total score out of 36.4 possible points:

Not all Fields have been set.


more than 24 points - good travel plan, way to go! Keep it up!

12-24 points - acceptable travel plan with improvement potential!

less than 12 points - sustainability criteria not met