Building a sustainable Travel & Expense Policy

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than just a business trend or the latest buzz word. No one could miss the student climate strikes reported to take place across 130 countries at the end of May, which have clearly had an impact on the general public and the next generation of business travellers.

As a result, sustainability has been high on the business travel agenda at a number of recent conferences and events, as companies realise that CSR policies are a necessity for those wanting to attract and stay relevant for the next generation.

The next business leaders have been educated from an early age to help protect the planet, to be mindful of global resources, embracing CSR whilst sill striving to increase revenues and efficiency.

So how do buyers create more sustainable travel programmes?

In a world of social media any corporation can be exposed if they do not fulfil their obligations towards building a sustainable future – business leaders ignore these core principles at their peril.

At the recent BTA (formerly GTMC conference) airlines such as Easyjet talked
about their ongoing project with Wright Electric to develop electric flights, while Birmingham airport bid to become carbon neutral by 2035.

Delta continues to be one of the airlines leading the way in this area, it was the first US airline to offer carbon offsets to customers and remains the only major airline to voluntarily cap carbon emissions at 2012 levels, by purchasing carbon offsets.

But what does this mean in practice and how can corporates really make a difference?

Business sustainability encompasses issues as climate change, corruption, rule of law, the empowerment of women, human rights, consumption and supply chain practices. The easiest to measure and the one area where most corporates can make a difference is that around travel and the impact on climate change. Aviation accounts for over 2% of worldwide C02 emission and whilst the industry has aggressive targets to reduce this and become more carbon neutral corporates can also help.

To put it into context, Business class produces x3 more carbon emissions than a regular economy fare, whilst first class produces up to a staggering x9 more carbon emissions than a regular fare (Source: Schlossberg, Tatiana. “Flying Is Bad for the Planet. You Can Help Make It Better.” New York Times).

National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the UK’s air traffic control company reports technology upgrades have meant NATS can reduce time-consuming holding patterns for aircraft above airports. They report that “every minute of holding saved is worth about 15,000 tons of fuel, or 47,000 tons of CO2,” this is a staggering amount when you think about how many flights land each day.

For many travel buyers a CO2 target is a good measure to illustrate definitive action and to get “buy in” from the rest of the organisation. Steve Malkin, CEO and Founder of Planet First Ltd, stresses the importance of balance, offering an alternative, and effectively communicating to travellers the benefits of change, to both the company and the environment. The “Planet Mark” certification programme recognises an organisations commitment to continuous improvement in sustainability, measuring carbon emissions, energy, water consumption and waste and advising companies on how and where they can make a difference.

For example, a corporate policy change to the way companies organise meetings can make a huge impact, implementing better video conferencing to reduce flights or taking alternative modes of transport such as the train on domestic routes.

Setting realistic targets such as the avoidance of one flight per month or downgrading from business to premium economy on shorter flights, empowers business travellers to make an informed choice towards realising the company goals.

‘Flygsam’ of “flight shame” is already taking hold in Sweden, with a Swedish buyer recently implementing a ‘no-fly’ rule on domestic routes, moving all domestic air travel to rail. (BBT – July 2019)

Whilst this may seem drastic many OBT ‘s will now include a carbon calculator so travellers are aware of their carbon footprint and the impact that will have. The Traveldoo solution includes a carbon footprint calculation and CO2 offset in the reporting for all flight trips.

Outside of air travel, changes can also be made with ground transportation through car sharing or the use of electric cars where possible. Traveldoo has a Trip Sharing function, where the traveller or booker can search for others travelling at the same time and look to see if savings can be made through sharing transportation and reducing the environmental impact.

The opportunities are endless and these days any formal bid document will include an element of sustainability, whether this be around C02 gases or more in-depth CSR policies. And it’s not just travel where corporates can make an impact, savings can also be made in the expense department, implementing a paperless expense solution using digital receipts, rather than printed versions. In October, Traveldoo will be launching a new expense feature enabling automated probative value archiving which is legally recognised in some countries.

Whether it be sustainability concerning travel, or expenses, engaging with your business travellers will not only position your organisation as a thought leader but also ensure you meet your carbon target – it’s a win -win.

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