Travel and Sustainability

Is travel necessary?

The most effective way to reduce carbon emissions due to travelling is, of course, to reduce the number of trips. Before we embark on official travel, we consider attending meetings, conferences or events remotely. This is particularly important in the case of long trips that cannot be made by train, which cause by far the most CO2 emissions.

At the same time, we think that meeting people “in the flesh” can be a necessity under certain circumstances – mainly to establish trust and a relationship that can then be adequately continued online, or in situations where there is a lot of intense, spontaneous and unmitigated interaction beneficial or even necessary to accomplish a certain purpose, e.g., in a strategy planning meeting or a design workshop.

Also, the concept of sustainability cannot be reduced to carbon emissions or energy consumption. People need time to relax, spend it with their partners, families and friends. In addition, especially in a non-profit/charitable organization, resources have to be used prudently, i.e., must not be spent on excessive travel time.

In order to balance these factors, we decided to aim for ambitious goals but leave flexibility for exceptional circumstances.

Train travel is the default option, flying the exception

In order to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, we take the following steps:

  • We will no longer fly to destinations that can be reached by train within six hours. Flights on those routes may be chosen only in exceptional situations, subject to the team lead’s approval.
  • Travelling by train is expressly the preferred option for destinations that can be reached within nine hours. Flights are subject to the team lead’s approval.
  • Staff may also take the train to destinations further away than nine hours’ train travel. Doing so is beneficial, because the longer the train journey, the more CO2 emissions we prevent. In these cases, the team lead has to approve the choice of transport, balancing the benefits (energy saved) with the costs (e.g., additonal costs for couchette vs. hotel accomodation; working hours incurred).
  • If there is no alternative to flying, direct flights are preferred over indirect flights as they cause fewer CO2 emissions. Economy class is standard and preferred mode of travel; under very specific circumstances (overnight flight with no recovery time, acceptable cost), business class travel is possible.
  • Shared public transport is the rule, individual transport (taxi, ride-hail) the exception.