Measures to reduce flight emissions

In 2019, SEI set an emissions reduction goal for work-related air travel. The goal is to reduce emissions by 25% per capita by 2024 compared to 2017 levels.

Where appropriate, online meetings and remote participation at events are prioritized as the primary mode of international collaboration. This is a fundamental tool not only to minimize our travel emissions, but also to extend our reach to broader and bigger audiences.

Taking further steps to meet this goal, SEI is developing an internal reporting system across all centres that:

  • allows individuals to self-report and monitor their own air travel emissions and targets
  • encourages reflection on the reasons and justification for travel
  • provides a consistent record across all SEI centres that allows for rapid assessment of trends in air travel emissions for internal management processes and external reporting.

SEI flight emissions

It is mandatory for all centres to monitor and report emissions from air travel. Since 2019, this data is also analyzed to inform future decision-making on travel.

The SEI Foundation’s flight emissions in the past six years are summarized in the table below.

Table: SEI Foundation CO2 emissions from air travel
Year Emissions (metric tons CO2e) Distance (km) Travel emissions per employee (tons/FTE)
2015 530 3.2 million 5.76
2016 517 3.4 million 4.92
2017 561 3.7 million 4.96
2018 583 3.9 million 4.40
2019 543 3.6 million 4.00
2020 56 0.4 million 0.36

In 2020, total CO2e emissions from air travel from our headquarters and all seven centres totalled 95.8 tons CO2e, compared to an estimated 895 tons CO2e in 2019.

While we expect our emissions in 2021 to increase from 2020 – when exceptional restrictions were in place – we aim to learn from and build upon our capacity to engage effectively and operate remotely, which increased significantly in 2020.

Internal environmental action plans

All SEI centres are required to annually submit an internal environmental action plan to chart progress on environmental sustainability targets and set out plans for the coming year.

Actions range from large investments – like the design of our buildings to achieve accreditation for sustainability; and incorporating water and energy saving features, solar panels and rainwater harvesting – down to smaller individual actions such as the introduction of a (voluntary) self-tax on employees who bring plastic packaging into the office for lunch.

Below is a list of other highlights from across our locations.

  • At SEI Africa, pooled transport allows us to reduce the vehicle emissions associated with employee commuting.
  • Several of our offices hold tree planting days to offset travel emissions, improve employee well-being, and reconnect with nature.
  • Our offices work to improve their sustainability across energy and water use, procurement, and waste and recycling.
  • Most of our offices use sustainable cleaning products.
  • Several offices have developed a list of preferred vendors based on sustainability practices.
  • We always ensure that vegetarian food is available at our events. Many of our offices do not offer meat at all.
  • We have excellent online conferencing facilities and have made significant investments in software to collaborate easily and efficiently across our network.
  • We have flexible working policies that allow for easier use of public transport options, and invest in facilities to encourage commuting by bike or foot.