Carbon offset policy for travel

Wellcome is committed to reducing the environmental impact of the travel we fund. We recognise that some travel is necessary to carry out research. But we want the people we fund to look for every opportunity to do things differently, so that travel only happens when it’s essential and it has a carbon neutral impact.

What we expect from the people we fund 

We expect the people we fund to:

  • minimise the number of journeys taken by using alternatives where possible (for example video conferencing)
  • choose travel that has a lower carbon impact, where practical
  • offset the carbon emissions of journeys they do make.

This is a new policy. It forms part of our grant conditions and reflects our travel policy for all Wellcome staff.

What costs we will pay 

We will pay for:

  • essential travel costs, even if the low carbon option is more expensive (for example travelling by train instead of flying)
  • project-related resources or activities that provide an alternative to travel, such as video conferencing, communication and file-sharing software
  • costs to offset the carbon generated by the essential travel.

We won’t pay for core infrastructure that the host organisation should provide, unless you're eligible to ask for these costs under our overheads policy. Examples of these costs include:

  • organisation-wide video conferencing packages
  • high-speed broadband
  • HD screens.

What researchers need to do 

If the host organisation has a carbon offset policy, researchers must follow this.

If the host organisation does not have a policy, researchers should:

  • calculate the carbon footprint of their travel using a recognised standard (for example, the International Civil Aviation Organization for international flights and the UK government conversion factors for greenhouse gas 2019 for UK train journeys)
  • choose their own carbon offset provider(s) – we recommend that they choose providers that:
    • spend nearly all or 100% of the cost on offsetting activities
    • support activities that remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere, not just reduce them
    • support activities that fit with the values of their host organisation and Wellcome.

New grant applicants should include the carbon offset costs in their grant application.

Current grantholders can use their existing grant funds to cover these costs. They don’t need to ask Wellcome to do this.

What organisations need to do 

What organisations should do now

Organisations should encourage grant applicants to:

  • use the organisation’s carbon offset policy if they have one
  • identify their own carbon offset provider(s) if the organisation doesn’t have a policy
  • include the carbon offset costs in their grant application.

Organisations should make sure that the proposed provider(s) are aligned to the values of the organisation and Wellcome.

What organisations must do by 1 October 2021

All organisations applying for Wellcome funding must:

  • set up arrangements with a carbon offset provider(s) to offset the carbon impact of all travel undertaken on Wellcome grants
  • put policies and procedures in place to help employees measure the carbon impact of the travel they need to take.


First published February 2020.

Contact us 

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

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