Climate Conscious University Business Travel

International travel is an integral part of working in academia and key to maintaining collaborations and enhancing global presence.  But business travel, particularly flying, has a significant environmental impact. Our intention is not to eliminate flying, but to actively reconsider our high carbon practices and habits to create a new, lower carbon, norm. To remain a world leading university we must deliver our world-class research and education in more climate conscious ways.

Recognising that carbon emissions from University Travel are significant, University Executive Board have endorsed the following principles:

1. Stopping domestic internal flights within mainland Britain, with a limited number of exemptions

2. High speed rail to be the default for Eurostar destinations (Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

3. Prioritise direct flights where practicable

UEB have authorised a 6-9month pilot of a flight carbon charge, which will be incurred for all flights booked for University business. Further details about this Pilot will be announced in advance of it going live.

This Guidance document provides a framework to empower, encourage and support our University Community to make carbon conscious decisions when travelling for University business.

What is Climate Conscious Travel?

Climate conscious travel is:

  • Choosing not to travel when virtual collaboration tools will adequately fulfil the purpose of travel (e.g. attending a meeting or conference via a video link where appropriate)

  • Ensuring unnecessary travel is not undertaken (e.g. sending the minimum number of individuals required to fulfil the purpose of travel)

  • Being aware of the environmental impacts of travel

  • Where travel is necessary choose a lower carbon way of travelling (e.g. travelling by train rather than plane)



Tips and resources to help you make climate conscious travel decisions  

Whenever you are considering travelling on University business, you should use this travel hierarchy to assist you to reduce the environmental impact of your activities.

Travel Hierarchy - Final

Click here to view as a larger version of the travel hierarchy

Deciding whether to travel

Before booking any travel ask yourself the following questions to identify whether you can avoid the need to travel or reduce your travel. 

Avoid travel - consider whether travel is necessary

  • Question why you are attending the meeting or event? How will it benefit my work, the University, or society more broadly?
  • What specific benefits will in-person attendance provide?
  • Could you achieve your goals without being physically present?
  • Could you use alternative means of disseminating and networking?
  • Is it feasible for you to attend remotely via tele/videoconferencing? 
  • If you are arranging an activity how you can encourage, incorporate and technically support virtual attendance?

Reduce your travel consider these possibilities

  • Can you combine or extend this trip with other meetings, fieldwork, or visits to another institution which would otherwise require additional travel?
  • Could you take fewer trips by reducing the frequency of meetings or by doing more on one trip?
  • Can you reduce the distance you need to travel? e.g. by choosing a closer conference location
  • If you are organising an activity, can you choose a location which reduces the distance travelled by participants and enables participants to use low carbon modes of travel?
  • Can you minimise the number of people making the trip? e.g. consider delegating only one representative for group travel and perhaps rotating this as needed.

Reduce your emissions with virtual meetings

Virtual meetings not only eliminate travel-related carbon emissions, but they also create a more accessible environment with more people from all over the world being able to attend and collaborate with us.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, its widely accepted that virtual activities can work effectively, and participants have the knowledge, experience and technology to make virtual events easier.

Tele conferencing and video conferencing can be used for a variety of different events including:

  • Meetings

  • Lectures

  • Interviews

  • Research group collaboration

  • Conference appearances and conference attendence 

When organising activities with external visitors then consider including a remote option for, e.g. conferences and symposia with option for presenters and attendees to present/attend remotely.

Follow these links for further information on how you can use the University’s tele conferencing and video conferencing services to virtually host activities for internal or external audiences:

Tele conferencing

Video conferencing 

Where travel is necessary, identify the most sustainable mode

Use the travel hierarchy to determine the most sustainable mode of transport depending on whether you are planning a local, national or international trip. 

For trips between our UK campuses visit our Travelling between campuses webpages for further infomation on the sustainable ways of travelling available to staff and students, and for travel within the Nottingham and wider East Midlands region visit our public transport and cycling pages.

When booking business travel elsewhere in the UK and when travelling internationally you should: 

Travel without flying where possible 

  • Rail is our default option for domestic travel within mainland Great Britain
  • Eurostar is our default option for destinations served by Eurostar (e.g. Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam). Catch Eurostar from London St Pancras instead of flying from East Midlands, Manchester, Birmingham or London airports. When comparing travel time for rail vs air travel remember that rail offers the benefit of going directly to city centres and less time is lost going through security.
  • Many other European destinations are also accessible by rail so consider this for onward connections to places such as Lyon, Barcelona and Frankfurt.
  • Consider alternatives to flights when travelling within other regions and countries overseas. The Man in Seat 61 provides worldwide information on travelling by train, bus and ferry, plus guidance and support.
  • When developing research proposals budget for the cost of low-carbon travel options.

Only fly when there are no alternatives, and where flying is the only practical option

  • Travel economy class; first and business class air travel has up to 4 times the environmental impact of economy travel.
  • Aim to book non-stop, direct flights as landing and take-off are a high proportion of a flight’s carbon emissions.
  • When booking flights through Key Travel then you can view the carbon footprint of any flight by clicking ‘details’ button. Select ‘sort by greenest’ to show the lowest carbon options first.
  • Before you book a flight think again about how to get the most from your trip; for example, are there other meetings or events you could attend at the same time which might reduce the need for travel in the future

Exemptions where air travel within Great Britain is permitted:

  • For journeys to locations outside mainland Great Britain, including Northern Ireland and islands such as Shetland or the Outer Hebrides
  • To connect with an onward flight to a location outside mainland Britain. For example, flying from Manchester to London Heathrow to connect to a flight to Dubai. But you should consider whether public transport could be used to travel to the airport where you will be boarding the international flight e.g. can you travel by rail or coach to London Heathrow?
  • To accommodate individual personal circumstances 


All University Travel bookings are to be made via Key Travel  who are the University's contracted supplier of travel (Accommodation, Airfare and Rail). 

Visit the Travel Sharepoint site for more information about travelling on University business   

Sustainability Team

Estate Office, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD