An easy guide to business travel sustainability terminology

Sustainability Terminology

If you’re wondering how green your business travel is, then you’ll find yourself navigating a new world of cryptic terms and sustainability jargon. Corporate travel is well known for its acronyms and aviation terminology. Now we can add some new items to the list. Here we’ll list the most common sustainability terms and help you to better understand what it all means.


Biodegradable materials are substances that can be decomposed or broken down by microorganisms and other living organisms. These include organic wastes like leftover food, kitchen waste including fruits and vegetable peels, etc. Non-biodegradable materials are substances that cannot be decomposed or broken down by microorganisms and other living organisms leading to pollution. These are inorganic wastes like plastic bags, cans, bottles, chemicals, etc.

Carbon Footprint

Your company’s carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (C02) emissions released into the atmosphere through your everyday activities. These direct emissions include fossil-fuel combustion in manufacturing, heating and transportation, and the electricity associated with consumed goods and services. Additionally, the carbon footprint concept often includes the emissions of other greenhouse gases. These include methane, nitrous oxide, or chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Carbon Neutral

When businesses strive to become carbon neutral, they take steps to remove the equivalent amount of C02 to what they have emitted through activities across their supply chains. This can be achieved by investing in ‘carbon sinks’ that absorb C02. These carbon sinks, such as forests or our oceans, absorb and store more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit. Investment into their health is called ‘offsetting’.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the idea that a business has a responsibility to the society that exists around it. There are many methods to measuring social and environmental impact, sustainability efforts and profits. The ‘three P’s’, or profit, people, planet is often used to summarise the driving force behind CSR strategies.


Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is used to describe three values that many organisations today strive to embody to help meet the needs of people from all walks of life. These include different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations. Various industries may well need to take different approaches to DEI depending on the composition of their workforces.

Emissions – Scope 1, 2 & 3

Scope 1Direct emissions from your own or controlled sources (if you own a factory, it’s the emissions from your factory)
Scope 2Your electricity footprint (offices, building, energy that you purchase)
Scope 3Everything else, your value chain. The largest Scope for most companies, consisting of 15 different categories. Category 3.6 is employee business travel


The acronym stands for environmental, social, and governance. It is primarily about risk management and about how the organisation is affected by E, S and G topics. ‘E’ is for Environmental concepts including climate, biodiversity and water. ‘S’ is for Social concepts including human rights, diversity and community engagement. ‘G’ is for Governance concepts including ethical practices, board structure, etc.


Greenwashing is the act of making false or misleading statements about the environmental benefits of a product or practice. It can be a way for companies to continue or increase their polluting and related harmful behaviours. These businesses often profit off well-intentioned, sustainability minded consumers.


Materiality is the idea that not all environmental, social, and governance issues are equally important or relevant to an organisation. It pinpoints the issues that have a big impact on a company’s success and how it’s viewed by stakeholders. These ‘material’ issues can really affect a company’s reputation and success.

Net Zero

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) that’s produced and the amount that’s removed from the atmosphere. It can be achieved through a combination of emission reduction and emission removal.

Companies striving for net zero will first look to reduce their carbon emissions. They will only offset, if there is any unavoidable, residual C02.


Investment into the health of carbon sinks, forests and oceans, is called ‘carbon offsetting’. It allows companies to operate in good conscience, knowing their emissions are balanced out. Companies can invest in highly-visible offset programmes. They will look to reduce C02 emissions first.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is a biofuel used to power aircraft. It shares properties with conventional jet fuel yet has less carbon footprint. SAF can reduce life cycle GHG emissions dramatically depending on the feedstock and technology used to produce it.

Science Based Target Initiatives (SBTi)

Science-based targets provide a clearly-defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth.

Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.


In 1987, the United Nations defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Today there are almost 140 developing countries looking at ways to meet their development needs. With the increasing threat of climate change, efforts need to be made to ensure development today doesn’t negatively affect future generations.