Arm targets net zero by 2030

Organisation eyes internal travel reduction as key to reducing environmental impact

Company: Arm
Business type: Software and computer processor manufacturer
Headquarters: Cambridge, UK
Key green travel goals:
• By 2030: absolute reduction of emissions from business travel by 8 per cent
• Cut travel emissions by 40 per cent in next financial year, including shifting internal meetings to virtual
• Implement carbon budgets per departments and align them with T&E budget
• Develop internal carbon reports and benchmarking
• Traveller education initiative

Like many companies that have set out plans to reduce their carbon footprint, UK-based Arm came closer to its goals in 2020 when business travel was more or less grounded. Last year was an anomaly, of course, and so the environmental journey begins in earnest in the post-pandemic world.

“After meeting our 2010 to 2020 carbon reduction targets we increased our level of ambition and committed to a science-based approach to cut our absolute emissions and achieve net zero carbon by 2030,” said Toby Withnell, the organisation’s director of global travel services.

Among its specific goals are the sourcing of 100 per cent renewable electricity, the overall reduction of energy use by 20 per cent, and the absolute reduction of emissions from its business travel by 8 per cent by 2030.

“Business travel accounted for around 50 per cent of all CO2e arising from our business in normal circumstances, so it’s a key focus area for us. In a normal year of travel the projected target in FY2021 would have been a reduction of 40 per cent versus FY2019, to ensure we were on course to hit an 8 per cent absolute reduction of travel emissions by 2030” said Withnell, who worked with the organisation’s sustainability team to forge its strategy and identify the targets, policies and changes required to achieve its travel-related objectives.

The idea of setting departmental carbon-based travel budgets was floated early in the process and adopted for FY2021. These were based on working towards Arm’s publicly announced goal of net zero carbon by 2030 and the annual reduction required to meet its target. The targets also factored in “headcount growth over the next 10 years, as we needed to ensure the targets reflected the business environment and growth plans.”

Arm took its carbon emissions for its 2019-20 financial year and set that as the benchmark. “It was more or less an average
year although we had to pro rata the last quarter [January to March 2020] when travel tailed off due to the pandemic,” Withnell explained.

“For our next financial year we are aiming to cut travel-related emissions by 40 per cent [compared to 2019-20] which should be achievable while travel is recovering.

“There’s been such a shift in opinions and understanding about the environmental impact of business travel recently that I am sure other companies will now look at implementing similar reduction targets.”

He continued: “One key thing we have done is to align carbon budgets with T&E budgets to help promote the net zero agenda because it just doesn’t make sense to have a carbon budget that is not related to a T&E budget.”

“And then Covid happened,” said Withnell. “That made things easy last year [with regards to its targets], but it’s also accelerated our drive towards being a more sustainable business.”

Not only did the pandemic propel widespread adoption of virtual technology – and acceptance that it can replace certain business trips – but Withnell believes Arm’s employees, and the wider populous, are now more acutely aware of their impact on the environment both as individuals and as employees.

While part of Arm’s business travel in the past was client-facing, another portion of travel included internal events, collaboration and teambuilding for the global company, given it has offices around the world. It is the latter portion where Withnell expects to see the greatest reduction in business travel.

“Reducing internal meeting travel is going to deliver the bulk of our [emissions] savings. The pressure to travel will come from clients but all companies have their own sustainability goals now”

Toby Withnell, director of global travel services, Arm

“Reducing internal meeting travel is going to deliver the bulk of our [emissions] savings. The pressure to travel will come from clients but all companies have their own sustainability goals now,” said Withnell.

“We have people saying we should have done this years ago, but it’s only the pandemic that’s really made everyone aware they don’t need to fly around the world to meet in person for every quarterly meeting when some or all of those can take place virtually. People now see the benefits of the time saved and their improved wellbeing – it’s not just about the environmental gains we can achieve.”

The downturn in travel has enabled Arm to develop its internal reporting and stakeholder engagement around its travel sustainability goals. When travel returns, the organisation will publish CO2e dashboards across the business on a monthly basis so employees can “make sure we’re on track.”

The company intranet site has also been redesigned to include more detailed information on Arm’s travel sustainability targets and strategy.

“We have workshops and communications planned around the return of travel and how sustainability is built into this,” said Withnell. “Once travel is booked, emissions are logged and reporting is provided by our travel management company, and travel emissions are fed into our company carbon emissions reporting tool.”

Withnell conceded that information pertaining to accommodation emissions is “a weak spot. We need standardisation there. It’ll take time because it’s complex, but it’s key for us to get the complete picture of our impact from travel.”

Arm is currently focusing on carbon reduction, but in the longer term will “offset what we can’t reduce” through investment in accredited carbon sequestration. The company also has a long-standing partnership with global conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI), supporting its technology for conservation programmes.

Arm’s environmental commitment also extends to its travel supplier partnerships. “Firstly, it’s essential that we’re able to measure our emissions from our use of their services, and secondly we need to know about their own sustainability efforts,” says Withnell.

“If one airline has a more sustainable fleet than another that is offering us similar rates, that would influence our preference. If you’re looking at halving travel volumes, rates could feasibly have less priority than in the past.”

Is Withnell confident Arm will meet its travel-related carbon reduction goals? “We have developed a communications plan to ensure employees understand the new goals, and have new guidance so they have the information they need to support them... and with monthly reporting across the company, we’ll have very good visibility of how we’re progressing. Most importantly, we are committed to meeting the goals.”