Sweden’s biggest companies are looking for ways to stay away from the polluting skies.
A phenomena known as flying shame, which has more and more Swedes shunning airplanes, is spreading to business travel, adding to woes for an industry already hit by the rise of video conferencing and other digital solutions.
A Bloomberg survey with responses from 21 of the 29 companies listed on Sweden’s benchmark index reveal that they are shifting more travel to trains, promoting more online meetings and also seeking to offset air travel with carbon-dioxide fees. About half explicitly said they expect their air travel to decline in the coming years, and none foresee an increase.
For carriers such as SAS AB, which rely on business travel for a big chunk of their profit, it’s a troubling development.
Mobile operator Telia Co. requires employees to take the train if the trip is below 500 kilometres, putting a flight between Gothenburg and Stockholm, Sweden’s two biggest cities, off limits. Atlas Copco AB advises employees to choose rail travel “unless there is a significant difference in travel time.”
Svenska Handelsbanken AB, one of Sweden’s biggest banks, says “aviation should be avoided, as far as possible, in favour of trains.”
The Nordic region’s largest bank, Nordea Bank Abp, which requires staff to always consider video meetings or conference calls as alternatives, has reduced air travel between its Nordic offices by 21 per cent since 2017. It aims for a continued annual reduction of seven per cent until 2021.
ABB Ltd., the Swiss-Swedish engineering giant, puts 1.8 per cent of the ticket price of all air flights made by its employees into an energy-saving fund. Swedbank AB introduced one flight-free week per month throughout the group last year.
The bid to reduce air travel by employees goes hand in hand with many companies’ bid to trial down on costs.
Sweden, the home of climate activist Greta Thunberg, has become a pioneer in the notion that there’s shame connected with travelling on airplanes that guzzle fossil fuels. Sweden’s main airport operator, Swedavia, has seen passenger traffic drop for 12 months straight, partly driven by flying shame. It could be a sign of what’s to come across the world.
At the same time, Swedish state train operator SJ has cited “the big interest in climate-smart travel” as the reason for last year’s record of 32 million passengers.
SAS hasn’t seen as dramatic a slowdown as Swedavia on its domestic flights, according to Freja Annamatz, a spokesperson. Annamatz acknowledged that the climate debate in Sweden “does of course affect the market” even though SAS doesn’t know just how big that effect is.
SAS does inform its frequent flyers that it offers climate compensation and the potential to buy extra biojet fuel, she said.
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