There is no question that sustainability is going to be one of the biggest challenges facing the business travel industry in the years to come. As consumers become more conscious of the environmental impacts of air travel, and businesses think and act more responsibly, we are going to start seeing major changes in the way things are done.
But that doesn’t mean that business travel will, or should, become redundant in the wake of more eco-conscious thinking. The importance of business travel, and the benefits it adds to professionals and their businesses, will not be diminished. However, like everything in the world of business, it will need to consider adaptation and evolution in order to continue operating effectively – and efficiently, of course!
It’s important to note that the consideration of more sustainable business travel methods is not new. This is something that has been on the radar of businesses, travellers, and agencies for years, with many businesses within the sector – from airlines to hotels to car hire companies – taking strong steps to combat the issue.
One of the more traditional ways that organisations that rely on business travel management have done their part is by enrolling in carbon offsetting initiatives. These essentially allow businesses to invest in green projects which ‘offset’ the environmental impact of business travel, thereby making it carbon neutral. Whilst there are many examples of successful offsetting schemes, they are often difficult to manage internally and can present huge complexities for UK organisations. This is primarily due to the fact that the UK Government ‘claims’ all carbon offsets from businesses as part of their Kyoto Climate Treaty commitment. So, in reality, businesses in the UK cannot ‘offset’. Officially, they can only ‘contribute to carbon reduction initiatives’ – however, the end goal and outcome is the same.
Another obstacle for businesses in engaging with carbon offsetting is the administrative difficulty with tracking carbon emissions across all of their business travel. Whilst there are plenty of tools and websites which allow you to easily calculate CO2 emissions and report them, this can be difficult in larger organisations with multiple business travellers. Luckily, business travel management companies, like ACE Travel, can help businesses track CO2 emissions across their trip without the need for extra administrative work – making it easier and clearer to report your offsetting.
Data shows that the incorporation of sustainable business travel methods into travel policy is slowly taking place. Research suggests that while 71% of businesses have a set business travel policy, only 57% of that number include elements of sustainability, versus 43% that don’t. It may not be an overwhelming majority, but it does clearly demonstrate that businesses are willing to make unprompted changes to support sustainable business travel.
The immediate importance of sustainable business travel should be self-evident. In the broadest sense, by implementing more environmentally-friendly procedures into policy, businesses can help to reduce their carbon emissions and add to the efforts to fight climate change on a global scale. Whilst this is the end goal of all carbon offsetting and reduction initiatives, it can also have more important benefits in the short term.
For example, as airlines, hotel chains, and even individual governments look to meet their climate targets, additional taxes could be introduced to ensure that these travel methods stay sustainable. In fact, we all currently pay Air Passenger Duty on Economy Class flights in part to help create more sustainable ways to fly. To continue to keep business travel economically viable, it will benefit businesses to choose sustainable partners throughout their trip and keep track of their travel methods. This will reduce the need to offset through taxation and reduce the overall cost for businesses!
Furthermore, looking for more sustainable business travel methods can have an important impact on how brands are perceived and reacted to. We’ve mentioned that consumer pressure may be a reason for businesses seeking more sustainable methods, but it’s also helpful to highlight that by doing so, it can positively impact an organisation’s standing with consumers – potentially leading to new business. Whilst this shouldn’t be the primary reason for seeking sustainability, it is another added benefit for those businesses that choose to do so.
At ACE Travel Management, we promote the 3 Cs in business travel policy: Care, Climate and Cost. Duty of care for employee wellbeing while they travel; seeking more efficient, sustainable methods where budget allows; finding fares and flights that work for your business’ budget. And with our survey data showing how important these issues are becoming for businesses, this is the perfect time to find ways of making business travel a little more sustainable.
In order to help our partners make more sustainable decisions in travel, we’ve developed these short guides for the most frequented business travel destinations around the world. Each guide will calculate the average CO2 emissions of travelling to each location, examine alternative modes of transport where possible, and offer insight into how to choose sustainable options whilst conducting business there – from hotels to transport to dining out.
Download your sustainable business travel guide here:
If you don’t see your specific location here, or have more detailed questions about business travel, get in touch with one of our ACE Travel experts.
Ultimately, the decision to explore sustainable travel methods should always be taken from a business perspective – as long as it’s right for your business’ budget and enables you to travel confidently, you should do it. On top of more holistic travel policy changes you could make, there are multiple things you can consider as a business in order to introduce more sustainable travel methods:
Travel class and aircraft types – A clear consideration for sustainability is the class in which you travel and the size of the plane you choose. Economy Class is the most eco-friendly due to more passengers benefiting from the same amount of fuel, and different aircrafts have varying degrees of CO2 emissions.
Alternative transport options – Businesses can consider the use of alternative transport when travelling shorter distances for business. For example, taking the train to European destinations rather than flying. This depends on time restraints and budget, of course.
Airline offsetting initiatives – Check which airlines have carbon offsetting initiatives before booking tickets. By flying with a more conscious carrier, you can create more sustainable travel methods.
Scrutinise hotel supplier incentives – Equally, you can check your hotel suppliers to see what initiatives they have in place in terms of sustainability. This can range from the way their food is sourced to how green their housekeeping services are.
Report your carbon footprint – As mentioned, reporting your carbon footprint can often be tricky in the UK. But by keeping detailed track of your business travel emissions, as well as methods to make it more sustainable, you can provide employees, customers, and partners with more confidence in your business goals.
The little things – Not every step toward sustainability has to be world-changing; even simple things like equipping every traveller with a reusable water bottle on their journey can help to reduce your carbon footprint. This saves them spending money on plastic bottles in airports!
Want to discuss how to make your business travel policy more sustainable or how partnering with an experienced business travel management company can help you reach your goals?
Speak to an expert today!