Sustainable Business Travel

  Panorama picture of Aachen © Martin Braun  

In our Sustainability Mission Statement, the members of RWTH jointly committed themselves to consider sustainability in all spheres of action, processes, and decisions. The focus is also on business trips, especially air travel, as these are one of the largest emission factors at universities.

Within RWTH, awareness of the impact of one's own mobility behavior on the environment is to be raised. In addition to actively inviting members to reflect on their own behavior, internal projects in particular, such as the Climate Fund, should offer opportunities and motivate people to make their own mobility behavior more sustainable.


Comparing Transportation – Train vs. Plane

A map with travel destinations of RWTH employees marked. Various lines show the five most frequent European destinations and the four most frequent domestic flight connections from Aachen. An image comparing transportation, an alternative text explanation is available at the bottom of the page.

The business travel data of RWTH employees from 2019 was taken as an example here. RWTH employees made a total of approximately 25,400 business trips in 2019. Approximately 6,000 (about 25 percent) of these business trips were made by air, with around 1,650 of these being domestic flights.

Different parameters can be used to illustrate the different environmental impacts of travel by air, rail, and car.

The image above shows the five most frequent European destinations and the four most frequent domestic flight connections: Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Barcelona, Vienna, as well as Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, and Munich. The image shows the respective travel time by train or plane, including transfer to the airport or train station starting at the RWTH Main Building (Templergraben 55). The CO2 emissions of the trip are also shown.

The evaluation clearly shows that air travel produces many more CO2 emissions than the same trip by rail.

The comparison of travel duration also shows the advantages of rail travel. Comparison data often does not include the journey to the airport or time for check-in, security checks, and boarding. Airlines recommend arriving at the airport approximately two hours before departure to allow enough time for these procedures. Even if you check in yourself, you should still allow approximately one hour for security checks and boarding. These are not yet included in the evaluation so about one to two hours would always have to be added to the flight duration indicated in the image.


Help With Deciding Whether to Travel by Air

Business trips reflect a fundamental structural sustainability dilemma. On the one hand, the responsibility of society and thus also of the University toward the environment, and on the other hand, the need to share ideas. There is no standard answer to the question of which factor is to be valued more highly. Instead, each individual must make their own decision depending on the occasion.

To help travelers in their decision-making process, they can use this decision tree as a guide. With the help of four short questions, they can reflect on whether a business trip (by air) should be taken or whether other alternatives can be considered.


What Else Can I Do?

Campaign: #unter1000 mach ich's nicht!

Those who support this initiative

  • Avoid flights covering distances less than 1,000 km
  • Use trains and buses or video and telephone conferencing as alternatives
  • Stand for mobility change
  • Identify needs for action

Offsetting Travel Emissions in DFG Projects

Since December 2020, the German Research Foundation, DFG for short, has made it possible to finance compensation payments for environmental impacts of business travel in research grants or in funded projects from the grant.

Spread the Word!

Share this website, links, ideas, and/or calls with your colleagues or even your personal contacts. Encourage them to join in to maximize your own climate impact!


Alternative Text to the Image Comparing Means of Transportation

The image shows a map marking different travel destinations that RWTH employees may take, with Aachen in the center of the map. From Aachen, various lines point to the five most frequent business travel destinations in Europe and the four most frequent domestic flight connections: Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Barcelona, Vienna, as well as Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, and Munich.

Besides the destination, the duration of the trip is displayed, as well as the CO2 emissions generated by rail or air travel to the destination.

(From Aachen)
Travel Duration by Train in Hours and Minutes CO2 Emissions
by Train
Travel Duration by Plane in Hours and Minutes CO2 Emissions
by Plane
Hamburg 5:20 1.72 kg 2:34 80.59 kg
Berlin 5:40 2.27 kg 2:49 108.93 kg
Dresden 7:22 2.25 kg 2:44 110.99 kg
Vienna 9:35 33.48 kg 3:09 172.6 kg
Munich 5:42 2.75 kg 2:44 110.58 kg
Zürich 6:41 17.6 kg 2:44 102.16 kg
Geneva 9:05 22.78 kg 4:24 126.6 kg
Barcelona 13:29 45.74 kg 5:49 258.39 kg
Paris 2:51 14.44 kg 2:49 91.48 kg