University of Helsinki compensates for air travel emissions

Compensation for the emissions caused by air travel in 2018 has been allocated to a Gold Standard certified project to be carried out in Kenya, close to the University’s Taita Research Station.

The University of Helsinki has decided to use shared funds to compensate for the emissions generated by its employees’ air travel in 2018. The University will pay as compensation a sum that is equivalent to approximately one per cent of its airline ticket purchases. In 2018 the total amount of kilometres flown with tickets purchased from CWT, the University’s partner travel agency, was 52.3 million, which generated 4,503 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

These air travel emissions have been compensated by supporting the Simba Hills Improved Cookstoves project carried out in Kenya, aimed at purchasing efficient stoves for Kenyan families. The new stoves will halve the consumption of firewood, leaving more time for other household work as well as childcare and education instead of gathering wood.

“An important factor in choosing the target was that it is located close to the Taita Research Station of the University of Helsinki in Kenya. This makes visiting the compensation project easy and the emissions generated by related travel small,” says Tom Böhling, vice-rector in charge of sustainability and responsibility at the University.

The Simba Hills Improved Cookstoves project has received the Gold Standard certification, an internationally accredited certification also approved by WWF Finland. The certification guarantees that emission compensations are permanent and genuinely brought about by compensation activity, not, for example, through legislation, taxation or subsidies.

Updating the principles of sustainable and responsible travel – Aiming at a sustainable University

The travel instructions of the University of Helsinki are being updated to reduce the damage work-related travel does to the climate.

“We recommend that each trip should be carefully considered and, for example, that the possibility of relying on video conferencing instead of travelling should be looked into. Work-related travel in Finland should be conducted by train, and we are also investigating the possibility of substituting transit flights abroad with journeys by train. Compensating for the climate effects of travel is only used as a last resort,” Böhling states.

Compensation for the climate effects of work-related travel will continue in the coming years. The goal is to establish a model that makes air travel emissions and compensation an integral part of the process of considering travel needs and selecting modes of transport.

“One option is for the unit or research group of the person booking the trip to pay the compensation, which encourages each party to consider how to reduce their carbon footprint generated by travel,” says Böhling.

Emission compensation is part of the overall sustainability and responsibility policy of the University of Helsinki, which is currently being drawn up.

“The goal is to make sustainability thinking permeate all University operations and turn us into a pioneer in sustainability,” Vice-Rector Böhling says.