Minimising business travel

Because of the substantial cuts we have achieved in CO2 emissions from power consumption and heating since 2003, business travel today constitutes Swiss Re’s largest emissions source by far. While business travel is ultimately driven by client needs and is thus difficult to influence, we have taken several measures to curb unnecessary business trips. Travel budgets are continuously monitored and travel data are collected centrally.

We have also built up a dense network of video conferencing equipment across the Group. Recently, we have partly replaced these facilities with state-of-the-art telepresence technology, which creates a real-time, life-size virtual meeting experience in specially designed rooms. By the end of 2014, we had 80 video conferencing rooms and 64 telepresence facilities worldwide.

Despite these measures, the amount of kilometres travelled per employee and the associated emissions have been rising in recent years. The general recovery in the business environment after the financial crisis and the realignment of our corporate structure by creating a holding company with three distinct Business Units have been important factors; recently, however, the increase in business travel has been strongly driven by our ongoing expansion in high growth markets.

Our recent financial results show that our new Group structure and our strategic focus on high growth markets have benefited our clients and shareholders. In essence, we thus face a dilemma between two objectives: necessary adaptation to create economic value in a changing world, and reducing environmental impacts.

We remain committed to curbing unnecessary business travel and in 2014 introduced an innovative mechanism that creates an incentive to minimise air travel, which accounts for the bulk of business travel.

Internal carbon levy on air travel

Offsetting those CO2 emissions we cannot avoid has been a key element of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme. In the past, all the costs of purchasing the necessary Voluntary Emissions Reductions have been borne centrally by Group Finance. In 2014, we introduced an internal carbon levy on air travel, which works according to the “polluter pays” principle.

As a result, our offsetting costs are now allocated to the Group’s Global Functions in proportion to their respective share of air travel. This internal price on carbon heightens awareness of travel costs among our managers and employees and creates a further incentive to reduce air travel, in addition to flight costs.