June 16, 2024

For many SMEs, this year has heralded a return to (some) normality, including, if you’re lucky, a little business travel.

And while the travel industry’s rebound has been characterised by labour shortages, supply chain issues, cancelled flights and luggage nightmares, there is another, more long-term issue that should be top of mind: sustainability.

The pandemic has often been viewed as ‘nature hitting the reset button’. The numbers don’t lie: the US saw a 12% decline in carbon emissions, the EU 11%, and India a drop of 9%, according to The Conversation. Donna Joines, GM Corporate Traveller UK explains that obviously, travel was curbed, people stopped driving to work, and production slowed. As the world reopens though, global emissions are steadily on the rise once again. Human impact matters – and climate-conscious business travellers are paying attention.

If you’re a business owner or travel manager, here are 10 statistics worth noting:

Around 40% of millennials would take a pay cut to work at a more sustainable company, according to a 2019 survey.
In a global survey by NielsenIQ back in 2015, 66% of respondents said they would pay more for sustainable product,
Of those, 50% were influenced by key sustainability factors, while
90% of the millennials polled were willing to pay more for environmentally friendly or sustainable products.
According to SAP Concur’s 2022 Global Business Traveller report, a quarter of business travellers (24%) would decline a trip assigned to them if it required using non-sustainable travel options.
The GBTA’s 2022 State of Sustainability Report indicates that 96% of external stakeholders (policy makers, NGOs, and think tanks) believe the way forward is through mandating and prioritising travel routes with the lowest CO₂ footprint.
While 72% of stakeholders believe impact is made through carbon offsetting.

The last three statistics are drawn from a survey that Corporate Traveller conducted last year. It shows that among our existing and prospective clients:

85% believe sustainability is important to their organisation, but only 21% have a formal business travel sustainability programme.​
68% have targets on reducing CO₂ emissions. ​
28% of customers are willing to pay more for sustainable business travel.

In other words, you’re not alone if you want to make your travel programme more sustainable. And as both individuals and companies hone in on sustainability, expectations in workplaces are rising. Finding the balance of growing your business while also reducing your carbon footprint, is becoming more and more important.

The good news is that there are simple steps which you can take right now to ensure that your team travels sustainably. This can mean:

Choosing alternative transportation when possible (for example, train over plane).
Reducing the number of connections when flying.
Choosing airlines that are taking action to reduce carbon emissions.
Supporting carbon offset initiatives, like Trees4Travel, which makes it easy for travellers to offset their carbon footprint by investing in reforestation and renewable energy projects.
Choosing ride share, public transportation, or other low-emission methods in your destination.
Choosing eco-friendly accommodation.
Committing to zero- or low-waste and recycling when travelling (and at home).

Once you’ve committed to taking a more conscious approach to business travel, it’s time to set some goals. For example, do you want to reduce your total carbon emissions by a defined percentage? Do you want to reduce single-use plastic, encourage more eco-conscious behaviours, or support local? If so, align your corporate travel policy to your sustainability goals.

A TMC can help you calculate your current travel footprint, look at ways to reduce your impact, and assist with building sustainability goals into your travel policy. What do I mean by that? TMCs will help you ‘green’ your supply chain by suggesting environmentally-conscious hotel and transport partners – while modern online booking platforms can then customise your searches to ensure results fall in line with your policy, be it green-certified hotels, flying with low-emission providers or choosing airlines with carbon-reduction projects.

Corporate Traveller takes it one step further. We’ve developed tools which allow you to anticipate potential CO₂ emissions throughout the booking flow; calculate the end-to-end carbon impact of your journey in real time; track and pull reports on your travellers’ carbon emissions; offset your emissions through carbon offsetting schemes; view recommended ‘cleaner’ options for transportation and accommodation; and track your progress against your goals on a sustainability dashboard.

For many of our clients this is extremely important. Baringa, an international consulting firm with high sustainability ambitions, recently tasked us with helping them get a better handle on their business travel, including encouraging employees to pick better travel methods, as well as measure (with extreme precision) the carbon impact of their travel.

Of course, the obvious answer for sustainability will always be travelling less. But the reality is that many companies need to travel. Ultimately, it’s about becoming more purposeful and intentional in your travel (quality over quantity and making every trip count), getting the right advice, setting real goals, and tracking your progress.

Remember, it’s never too late to start the journey. It’s why sustainability is such an important part of our SME Corporate Travel Toolkit. This kit will give you pointers on how to craft the perfect travel policy, where to find savings without compromising on traveller safety or sustainability, the pitfalls of unmanaged travel and so much more. Sign up today!

Read more:
10 sustainable travel stats that matter