WWF’s “One in Five Challenge” members are NOT increasing their flying – they’ve cut it by 38% over 3 years
A highly misleading article appeared in the Times on 3 February 2014 suggesting that WWF’s “One in Five Challenge” members are increasing their flying and that they are leaving the Challenge because they need to fly more. The “1 in 5” challenge is a scheme to encourage businesses to cut their business flying by 20% over 5 years. The Times journalist based his misleading conclusions on data cherry-picked from the 3rd Annual Report from the “One in Five Challenge”. WWF has set out the actual facts to counter the Times’ errors. Flights have not increased during the Challenge; they have continued to decline. Over a three-year period, the number of flights taken by Challengers fell by 38%, far exceeding the target set by the Challenge. Even between Years 3 and 4, when the journalist claims Challengers have flown more, they have actually flown less taking 2% fewer flights. Challengers are not leaving the Challenge to fly more as the article alleges. The reason it may appear companies have dropped out of the scheme is because there is more data from Years 1 & 2 than Years 3 & 4 is that several Challengers who have recently joined the programme have not submitted as many years of data as Challengers who joined when the programme was launched in 2009.
Sorry, you’ve got it all wrong—One in Five Challenge members are not increasing their flying
6 February 2014 (WWF UK)
A highly misleading article appeared in the Times on 3 February 2014 suggesting that One in Five Challenge members are increasing their flying and that they are leaving the Challenge because they need to fly more.
The journalist based his misleading conclusions on data cherry-picked from the 3rd Annual Report from the One in Five Challenge (PDF)
But these are the facts to counter the article’s fiction:
Flights have not increased during the Challenge, they have continued to decline. Over a three-year period, the number of flights taken by Challengers has fallen by 38%, far exceeding the target set by the Challenge (a 20% cut within 5 years). Even between Years 3 and 4, when the journalist claims Challengers have flown more, they have actually flown less taking 2% fewer flights.
Challengers are not leaving the Challenge to fly more as the article alleges. The journalist has assumed that, because there are more companies reporting data in Years 1 and 2 than in Years 3 and 4, that must mean companies have dropped out. In fact, the reason that there are fewer companies reporting in Years 3 and 4 is because there are several Challengers who have recently joined the programme and haven’t submitted as many years of data as Challengers who joined when the programme was launched in 2009.
Those few Challengers who have left the programme have done so because they have already achieved the award, not because they intend to fly more. The article provides no evidence or quotes from bosses (as the title suggests) that their companies are leaving the Challenge to fly more.
Although flight emissions and distances have grown slightly (4% and 5% respectively) between Years 3 and 4, Year 4 emissions remain 34% lower than they were at the start of the Challenge and kilometres distance is 33% lower.
In summary, WWF is very disappointed that the article completely overlooks the significant achievements of Challengers, which should be celebrated, and, instead portrays a false impression of the Challenge and its members.
Below is the Times article that got some of its facts wrong:
Sorry, must fly, say bosses pledged to cut air travel
“The total distance flown by employees fell from 191 million km in the first year to 123 million in the third. Yet in the fourth year it rose to 129 million”
Richard Pohle/Times Newspapers
By Ben Webster Environment Editor (Times)
February 1 2014
Companies in a green scheme to cut emissions from business flights have increased their air travel over a year after realising that virtual meetings can be a poor substitute for pressing the flesh.
The scheme was aimed at showing that Heathrow and other airports did not need new runways, but the results suggest that even green-minded companies often see no alternative to flying.
WWF, the environmental group running the scheme, admitted that video conferencing was unsuitable for building relationships with new clients. The distance travelled by air fell sharply for the first three years after companies, including Microsoft, BT, Marks & Spencer, Lloyds TSB and BSkyB, joined the “One in Five” scheme, which aims to help organisations cut a fifth of their flights in five years.
However, WWF’s report on the scheme’s fourth year shows an annual increase in both long-haul and short-haul flights.
The total distance flown by employees fell from 191 million km in the first year to 123 million in the third year. Yet in the fourth year it rose to 129 million. Overall emissions from the companies’ flights fell by 36 per cent in the first three years but rose by 4 per cent, or 1,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide, in the most recent year.
Jean Leston, WWF’s transport policy manager, said that video or audio conferencing could replace only about a third of business flights. “While new teams are forming and relationships are being built and there are new clients to be met, these are the kind of circumstances where even WWF admits you are going to have to have a certain number of face-to-face meetings involving flying.
“Where we say you can replace flying most easily is for internal meetings or for client meetings where relationships are already established.” She said that the recession had encouraged companies to find cheaper alternatives to flying staff to meetings and argued that this had resulted in a permanent change of behaviour. “There has been a cultural shift that the recession has accelerated.”
Ms Leston said that some companies had dropped out of the scheme but declined to say which ones, saying it was a condition of the scheme that it would not give out “specific details on which companies have done what”. She said that WWF, which opposes any new runways, did not know whether emissions from flights were rising or falling for the companies that had dropped out.
“When they drop out and they inform us they have achieved all they can through the challenge and gone beyond it in most cases, they have got the T-shirt, a company is not expected to submit any further data. It’s a hassle for them so why would they?
“They may still be continuing to cut their flying but I don’t know and I wouldn’t want to speculate.”
WWF said in a statement: “WWF believes that business will continue to fly less — not more — in future and that decisions on UK airport capacity need to reflect this fact. Companies profit by flying less.”
WWF’s “One in Five” challenge has cut corporate flights by their participating firms by 38% over 3 years
New results from WWF’s “One in Five Challenge”, a programme to help organisations cut 20% of flights within 5 years in favour of lower-carbon ways of staying connected, show that some of the UK’s leading companies have cut flights by 38% and flight expenditure by 42% over a 3-year period, saving them over £2 million and over 3,000 tonnes of carbon. Organisations that have achieved the One in Five Challenge, include BskyB, BT, Capgemini, Lloyds TSB, Microsoft UK, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Vodafone. The Challenge has helped companies to make significant inroads into cutting their costs and carbon from business travel and to change their business travel behaviour in favour of alternatives such as rail and video-conferencing. These results, together with other WWF-UK analysis which shows a significant, long-term decline in business flying in the UK, point to a permanent change in meeting and travel practices, questioning the business case for UK airport expansion. Having developed the One in Five Challenge and run it successfully for over 4 years, WWF is handing “One in Five” to Global Action Plan (GAP), the UK’s leading environmental behaviour change charity helping business to reduce environmental impact.
Organisations that have achieved the One in Five Challenge, including BskyB, BT, Capgemini, Lloyds TSB, Microsoft UK, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Vodafone, have cut far more flights, more quickly than anticipated.
WWF One in Five Challenge 3rd annual report: www.wwf.org.uk/oneinfivereport
WWF infographic on UK business travel trends http://www.wwf.org.uk/how_you_can_help/get_your_business_involved/one_in_five_challenge/no_business_case_for_airport