AirPlus Launches Climate-Neutral Central Billing Product - Business Travel News

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AirPlus Launches Climate-Neutral Central Billing Product

November 30, 2012 - 10:55 AM ET

By Mary Ann McNulty

AirPlus International has launched globally a central-bill option that provides corporations with green reporting and no-cost carbon offset and donation programs through Swiss nonprofit group Myclimate. The new Green Company Account is "the first climate-neutral product in the financial services industry," according to AirPlus. In addition, AirPlus said it would offset its own carbon emissions generated by processing each centrally billed transaction to make the product climate-neutral.

The latest evolution of AirPlus' green initiatives began last year, said AirPlus central payment solutions product manager and Green Company Account developer Annette Kussmaul, as the card provider's research and development team brainstormed the carbon-neutral product concept and a dedicated offset plan to meet increasing customer demands for green products.

AirPlus began offering green reporting in 2007 and since has enhanced it to calculate emissions not only for air travel, but also for rail travel, hotel stays and car rentals and by ticket, route, department, cost center and project. It also partnered with German nonprofit Atmosfair to calculate emissions according to one standard, then began to automatically deliver to clients carbon-output calculations as measured by four different industry standards, which met 99 percent of client needs, Kussmaul said. All AirPlus standard corporate accounts may request the reports and opt to offset emissions with one of four partners. However, AirPlus has charged an annual fee of €500 for offsetting.

The new Green Company Account, however, incurs no such fees for carbon offsets or donations, Kussmaul said. One-time donations can be quickly applied; a company might make a donation to partially offset emissions from a large meeting or event, for example. But the product team also wanted a carbon-neutral card and dedicated "reforestation project, and Atmosfair doesn't offer one. That's why we decided to set up this project with Myclimate," Kussmaul said.

Piloted In Italy

AirPlus in September debuted the Green Company Account in Italy, followed by the Nordic and French markets, then the global rollout, Kussmaul said.

"In Italy we had so many customers asking for the Green Company Account that all clients there decided to switch to it as of January," she noted.

One early adopter is Gruppo Rina, a marine certification and services firm with offices in 49 countries that validates and verifies climate defense mechanism projects around the world. "AirPlus is not just a supplier for business travel solutions, but a partner for our green policies," according to Simonetta Costa of the Gruppo Rina purchasing department. Gruppo Rina used AirPlus' green reports and applied for the Green Company Account, which "certifies that we are using an emissions-free financial tool," Costa said.

"Everyone asks 'Why Italy?' instead of Switzerland or the Nordics, both well-known green" proponents, Kussmaul said. "It was because we had increasing demand from Italy for green products, and our Italian market is always very active and progressive in selling new products and trends. They said, 'We want to be the pilot market and see how it works.' "

Based on rapid initial conversions, AirPlus expects in 2013 that "50 percent of all our customers will use the Green Company Account," Kussmaul said. Even so, she noted that AirPlus would continue to offer all standard products.

Greening Internal Processes

Kussmaul said she analyzed the carbon emissions AirPlus generated to process a transaction, factoring power, air conditioning, paper, business travel and other necessities. After months of study and data collection, she found that each transaction generated "0.07 kilograms" of carbon dioxide. The company reduced its output where possible. For the rest, AirPlus said it would offset "with a six-figure amount per year to a [Myclimate reforestation] climate protection project in Nicaragua."

AirPlus product teams also are considering the need for a green corporate card for individual cardholders. "That is the next step we're thinking about, but there is no timeline for that," according to a spokeswoman.

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