New Travel Policy
In the spring of 2022, EPFL adopted new guidelines for responsible business and student travel, which will go into effect in the first quarter of 2023. This new policy aims to reduce the institution’s climate impact while ensuring a high level of service to the EPFL community.
In 2019, members of the EPFL community travelled by air more than 20,000 times, which corresponds to 1,000 complete journeys around the Earth. The climate impact of a flight is 73 times higher than that of a train trip. Generating 11’260 tons of CO2-eq, travel is the second largest source of quantified emissions at EPFL after energy consumption.
The Swiss Confederation and the ETH Board have set a target of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions related to travel by 2030 (base year: 2019).
To meet this objective, EPFL is implementing strong measures. At the end of 2021, the institution put out for consultation two new guidelines that were adopted on May 6, 2022 by the Management for entry into force in 2023:
The main pillars of this new travel policy are as follows:
- Promote academic exchanges, professional development and personal well-being while minimizing the environmental impact of travel.
- Guarantee the duty to inform, monitor, prevent and assist abroad.
- Use resources responsibly by integrating environmental, personal and financial criteria into travel planning and organization.
- Respect the duty of exemplarity and transparency in the use of public funds.
- Requirement to use a single travel agency, both for staff and for the student community, for trips organized and/or paid for by EPFL. This agency will be selected at the end of 2022 after a public call for tenders.
- The chosen agency will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the guidelines and for carrying out an environmental and financial assessment of the trips.
- Assistance services abroad are included in the guidelines. They concern the entire EPFL community, including students.
- Train should be used for destinations in Europe that can be reached in less than 6 hours.
- For air travel of less than 6 hours, only Economy or Economy+ classes may be used. For longer trips, Economy or Economy+ are strongly recommended and First is not allowed.
- Direct flights will be preferred, as well as the use of the train to reach a Swiss airport of departure for an international flight.
- The most CO2 efficient airlines will be preferred.
- The discount offered to EPFL staff for the purchase of a 2nd class general season ticket will be increased from 15% to 25% (and from 5% to 25% for juniors).
- EPFL wishes to introduce an internal CO2 contribution to feed a fund in favor of climate and sustainability. A working group will be formed in the fall of 2022 to develop this project. The aim is to support local initiatives instead of offsetting travel emissions with projects abroad.
The expected effects of EPFL’s new travel policy are a reduction of CO2 emissions related to air travel by 20%. In addition, since 2016, we have seen a voluntary reduction in travel of 4% per year on average. To continue this trend, EPFL will organize awareness-raising actions.
The health crisis of 2020-2022, by disrupting travel habits and ways of organizing work, has shown that it is possible to design scientific research with less business travel, resulting in a better quality of life and less stress. To support these new modes of professional communication, EPFL is investing in adequate videoconferencing tools.
The cumulative effects of the new travel policy, voluntary travel reductions and technical advances in aviation should enable us to reach the federal government’s 2030 targets.
EPFL’s new travel policy is part of a broader strategy to reduce the institution’s overall carbon footprint. The areas concerned are energy, buildings, food, commuting, purchasing and digital.
EPFL is also implementing projects to adapt to climate change and enhance biodiversity, such as the Campus Piéton, which will also increase well-being and conviviality.
The objectives of the EPFL Travel Commission are to:
- Define the action plan and accompanying measures of the EPFL travel policy
- Monitor the implementation of the new professional and student mobility directives
- Validate the specifications for the calls for tender
- Follow up the financial and procedural aspects of the travel agency
- Agnès Le Tiec, Deputy to the Vice President for Responsible Transformation
- Luca Fontana, Head of Mobility
- Eric Du Pasquier, Head of Security, Safety and Facilities Operations
- David Pisacane, Head of Procurements
- Bertold Walther, Head of Accounting
- Lucia Baldi Unser, Deputy to the Vice President for Academic Affairs