Transportation has a major (and quickly growing) impact on the environment, accounting for a quarter of global CO2 emissions. WRI is committed to addressing the impact from travel in our own operations by ensuring that our staff have a variety of cleaner options and alternatives for their travel needs. We focus our efforts on building support for active commuting to-and-fro the workplace and reducing air travel for business.
WRI’s active commuting program encourages staff to incorporate more active forms of transport, like biking, walking and running, into their commutes. Active commuting not only releases fewer emissions but also improves human health and well-being. By providing both social and physical support to staff, WRI has been successful at shifting commute patterns toward low-carbon modes of transport. In the U.S., our efforts were recognized by goDCgo with the 2018 Ambassador Award for Bike-Friendliest Workplace. We also partner with local organizations like Bike Anjo in Brazil and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) in D.C. to improve our commute offerings to staff. Some of the ways we support active commuting are:
- Providing facilities like showers, lockers, secure bike parking and bike repair tools
- Locating our offices in pedestrian-friendly areas that are close to bike trails, bikeshare stations and public transit
- Offering discounted memberships for services such as Capital Bikeshare
- Creating an employee network of experienced bicyclists that can help staff who are newer to biking (e.g. Bike Angels in WRI Brasil and Bike Ambassadors in WRI U.S.)
- Organizing regular community-building events like ride-alongs, walk-alongs, bike maintenance sessions and ‘bike breakfasts’.
At WRI Indonesia, all staff work from home on a predetermined day each month. By doing so, we are able to close the office, eliminating our emissions from staff commutes and office energy use.
Reducing Air Travel
Taking flights is essential to our work, helping us to build relationships and establish strategic coalitions that can effectively address urgent global challenges. At the same time, air travel has outsize environmental impacts and is WRI’s largest single source of emissions. WRI works to reduce air travel and mitigate the impact of flights that our staff do have to take.
To incentivize staff to limit their travel, WRI charges an internal carbon fee of US$50 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent generated from flying. Under this rate, a one-way flight from Washington, D.C. to London would cost an additional US$45. (This fee is also applied to emissions from electricity use and staff commuting, which are much fewer). Fees are levied on the projects associated with the flights, with proceeds supporting the work of WRI’s Sustainability Initiative. By putting a price on carbon, WRI encourages staff to find alternatives to air travel, such as using virtual communications or trains.
Nonetheless, some flights are essential. To minimize the impact from these, WRI requires its staff to fly coach and choose direct flights where possible. We also encourage staff to make their trips as efficient as possible. In the U.S. office, staff try to make their trips multipurpose, as we want to avoid situations where a staff member flies to attend a single meeting. In the Indonesia office, no more than three staff may go on the same trip. This cap reduces redundancies and ensures that only necessary staff take flights.
WRI Indonesia planted iron redwood and marine mangrove trees to sequester emissions from air travel, commuting and electricity in March 2019 and January 2020, respectively.
WRI staff are also experimenting with other approaches. In 2019, WRI Indonesia organized a small-scale restoration effort in West Java. Staff planted 90 trees and supported a local community foundation to plant 400 more. Over half of these were iron redwood (Indonesian mahogany) trees, which are valuable to the local community for medicine and shade. Together, these 490 trees will sequester an amount of carbon equivalent to more than half of WRI Indonesia’s 2018 emissions from air travel, commuting and electricity. To supplement this effort, in 2020, WRI Indonesia staff planted 100 mangrove trees in the Thousand Islands, contributing to blue carbon ecosystems that protect coastal communities from rising sea levels and extreme weather events.