Business travel, events and carbon offsetting

Business travel, events and carbon offsetting

We are reducing our use of carbon-intensive energy by replacing fossil-fuelled heating infrastructure where feasible and by purchasing renewable energy for a high proportion of the energy we use (49% in 2013). 

Since 2006, we have been offsetting carbon emissions from business travel

We continuously try to minimize our CO2 emissions in business travel by encouraging our employees to choose alternatives to air travel, such as high-speed rail, recording a 7% reduction in the number of flights taken, and a 2% increase in employee rail travel in Switzerland in 2013. Our investments in video conferencing solutions also contributed to the reduction in air travel. Globally, over 400 rooms with video facilities are available and more than 80,000 room bookings were processed in 2013. The marketing and events teams adhere to environmental guidelines for client conferences and consider the impact of delegate travel, hotels, venue facilities and catering as part of their logistics and planning.

UBS conferences and other events can affect the environment in a wide variety of ways: travel to and from venues usually has the most significant impact on the environment, but the consumption of paper, water and electricity and the volume of waste produced are all important issues for organizers seeking to put environmentally responsible arrangements in place. To minimize these impacts, in 2009 UBS issued guidelines for environmentally sound event planning and has subsequently offset CO2 emissions from all UBS Investment Bank conferences, events and roadshows.

The guideline describes how environmental considerations should be factored into the evaluation and selection of vendors of products (e.g. branded gifts) and services (e.g. catering, transport, event venue and accommodation). The guidelines also provide detailed recommendations on how the environmental impacts of events can be managed, for example through energy-saving measures, waste and water management, and the avoidance of excessive usage of communication and printed materials.

We continue to offset all CO2 emissions resulting from agency booked business air travel and client events and conferences, thereby supporting renewable energy and other projects reducing CO2 emissions. Projects we selected meet the requirements of the Gold Standard for voluntary emissions reductions and also provide positive community benefits. Schemes selected include a wind power project in Turkey and community biofuel projects in China and India. 

Case studies

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has honored UBS with Gold medal recognition for its global travel program. This accolade recognizes UBS's commitment to ensure sustainability is a core consideration within business travel and is a great achievement for UBS's Travel and Environmental teams who worked together to influence external suppliers and raise awareness among employees.

Several environmentally-focused initiatives have been implemented by the Travel and Environmental teams to reduce carbon emissions, including:

  • Offsetting CO2 emissions from air travel by selecting Gold Standard projects for voluntary emissions reduction and investing over CHF5.3 million over the past six years. Investments in video conferencing solutions contributed towards an 8% reduction in the number of trips taken in 2012, along with a 30% increase in video conference volumes compared to the previous year.
  • Adding links to a carbon calculator on the UBS online travel booking tool and to more sustainable options for chauffeur drive and executive cars.
  • Considering sustainability across many of our business transport and commuting streams, such as moving from petrol and diesel executive cars to suppliers who can provide hybrid fleets and, more recently, emerging electric vehicle solutions.
  • Offering interest free season ticket loans to employees to encourage the use of public transport for their daily travel from home to work.
  • Overall demand management activity has led to 5% reduction in air spend, of which CHF2.6m can be attributed to the use of video conference
  • Successfully minimized our carbon footprint and continue to encourage our employees to choose high-speed rail rather than air travel, recording a 5.7% increase in global employee rail travel

Video conferences are an inherent part of today's day-to-day business environment. Approximately 7,000 room bookings for video conferences are processed by the global video booking desk every month. Since the summer of 2013, our new Meeting Reservation System has been available. It provides an intuitive online reservation system for booking video conference meetings easily and quickly in all UBS locations. It also provides a comprehensive overview on rooms within UBS, shows real-time room availability, and an efficient booking process

Face-to-face meetings have many benefits. They help reinforce relationships and are a better way to get meaningful feedback. Video conferencing allows the participants to see facial expressions, make eye contact, and judge body language

Perhaps the biggest benefit offered by video conferencing is the ability to work with people in remote locations without incurring travel costs and travel time. Regular travel and work hours saved from flying or driving to different cities can be used for other organizational activities.

Video Conferencing facts and figures

  • 426 Video Facilities in 114 UBS buildings
  • 2500 video conferences per months with over 9000 video locations connected
  • 20 new video rooms were built in 2013

Tekirdag wind power project in Turkey
The Tekirdag wind power project is designed to replace 95,000 MWh of electricity a year previously generated by fossil fuel power stations. It is a Gold Standard project consisting of 15 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 29MWe. The project employs 45 construction workers from the community and 12 operational and maintenance staff recruited from nearby villages. In addition, the project owner has invested in improved road infrastructure and enhanced forestry and livestock facilities in the region.

Efficient biomass stoves in China
This project focuses on replacing existing coal fuelled domestic stoves with a low carbon biomass solution. It is a Gold Standard project and centered on the Shanxi Province. In addition to the climate change benefits, the semi-gasifier stove design reduces health risks from poor indoor air quality caused by burning coal and wood for domestic cooking. Carbon finance revenues are re-invested into the scheme, which includes a subsidy for rural customers unable to afford the new stoves.

From coal to biomass in South Africa
On the South African citrus farm chosen for this offsetting project, the steam production is being shifted from the fossil fuel, coal, to climate-friendly biomass. The citrus farm is surrounded by immense forests as well as sawmills. This leads to a large quantity of sawdust and wood waste being available within a radius of 20 km. Through the purchase of emission certificates, the project supports the replacement of the current boilers with a biomass boiler. The region’s sawdust and wood waste are used to heat the boiler, burning around 18,000 tons of biomass annually.

Biomass Boilers for communal kitchens in India
The efficient cookers project replaces polluting liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cookers with climate-friendly biomass cookers. Within two years, 7'500 biomass cookers will be sold to communal kitchens, such as restaurants, canteens and schools, and save an average of 69'000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The biomass cookers are subsidized by carbon credits and are sold to communal kitchens at a 30% discount. Biomass cooker users also benefit from the cheaper prices of biomass pellets compared with LPG.