Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

1 Jan, 2001

I.T. Revolution Will Lead to Air Travel Boom, says SAS Environmental Report

The global Information Technology revolution will not cut demand for air travel; in fact, the opposite is likely to prove true, according to an environmental audit report released by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) last week.

The report is part of a self-critical environmental audit conducted annually by SAS to monitor the impact of its operations on the environment. SAS is one of the few global airlines that undertakes this self-scrutiny within the context of stringent local, regional and global laws that are making multinational businesses increasingly accountable.

For both cost-cutting and environmental reasons, this year’s report is only on the Internet <www.scandinavian.net/environment> in PDF format. All printed copies have been dispensed with, and are likely to stay that way.

Addressing one of the more rigorously debated issues in recent times — the impact of IT on high-yield traffic like business and meetings travel — the report says that while “a great deal of travel and meetings between people have indeed been replaced by telecommunication, which may also entail potential environmental benefits, there is no evidence that telecommunication will yield any overall reduction in air travel.

“Studies show that errands of a more trivial nature, such as bank errands or more routine contact, are being replaced by telecommunication. The need for face-to-face meetings in the creative area, such as research and development, marketing and design is increasing at the same time. Creative and intellectual processes that involve argumentation or negotiation demand physical contact, and IT is inadequate as a tool in these cases.”

The report cites a study by George Mason University outside Washington, D.C. It shows that passenger transportation declines proportionate to the increase in IT utilisation, but only in regions with low-tech businesses. Passenger transportation, and air travel in particular, increases on the other hand within and to and from communities with high-tech businesses.

Another report from Germany’s University of Karlsruhe quoted by the SAS report indicates that the Internet in general may lead to a higher demand for travel.

“It points out that chat friends will want to meet in person sooner or later, that individuals surfing the Internet for tourist destinations will decide eventually to travel to these destinations, and that anyone who has learned how to find good prices for a product via the Internet will continue to make purchases on the Internet.

“This results in an overall higher demand for transportation, especially air transportation,” the report asserts.

The airline business accounts for about 86% of the SAS Group’s total environmental impact, chiefly from the use of fossil fuels, the combustion of which increases atmospheric carbon dioxide, contributing to global climate change.

Hotel operations and other businesses account for 12% and 2% respectively of the Group’s total environmental impact, chiefly because of energy and water consumption, but also through consumption of materials and chemicals as well as waste generation.

One innovation is the launch of an ecalculator, <www.scandinavian.net/ecalculator> that allows passengers to estimate their share of aircraft emissions when they travel with SAS.

Though the estimation of aircraft emissions is not yet a perfect science, passengers can calculate the impact their journey is having on the environment based on operating parameters like load onboard, flight profile, temperature, winds, fuel and engine/aircraft characteristics.

SAS believes this will become a major issue in future as the number of customers wanting to know how great an impact their employees’ air travel or air cargo has on the environment has increased greatly in recent years. It believes that as stringent environmental policies become part of the corporate agenda, business travellers will be required to fly environmentally friendly airlines.

Similarly, the report says that SAS is requiring its own subcontractors to maintain certain environmental, ethical and social standards. This, because global watchdog groups monitoring multinational corporations are no longer willing to accept claims that sub-contractors are responsible for problems.

Even if the claims are true, the report says, it “doesn’t matter – the revelation of discrepancies just as often affects the principal contractor.”

SAS does its environmental audit in nearly as much depth as its financial. For airlines, like most businesses, the trick is reduce environmental emissions even while growing productivity and bottom line. This means a constant search for efficiencies that can often be thrown out of kilter by factors outside their control.

While the report outlines the progress the airline has made, inspite of the difficult economic conditions, it does ‘come clean’ in areas where it has fallen short.

The report admits that one of its unmet environmental targets was related to the delay in purchase of new environmentally-friendlier aircraft, equipped with more efficient engines, as a result of the economic crisis.

It owns up to the fines that some of its subsidiary airlines have had to pay for violating take-off and landing rules. It also notes that its subsidiary hotel group Rezidor SAS Hospitality’s Dusseldorf property was fined for not complying with the city’s building and safety codes, which resulted in a fix-up costing about several million dollars.

Another group hotel in Stavanger was hit by several cases of Legionnaire’s disease, some fatal, which were traced to legionella bacteria traced to the ventilation and air-conditioning system. The hotel has responded with all applicable regulations and maintenance routines and made it clear that it will take responsibility if it is proved that the hotel is liable. So far, no charges have been filed.

Comments are closed.