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Cleaning Up your Travel Programme

Does your business have sustainability targets in place? Do you offer correct waste disposal systems and encourage paperless alternatives?

While these methods are all making a difference, you may not realise that the biggest sustainable leakage has nothing to do with the number of documents you print or the mountain of disposable coffee cups in the office bin. There is another part of your business that is causing the largest environmental impact, and you may not be doing anything about it. 

In recent years, the travel industry has united in a push for more sustainable practices in their businesses. From airline pacts to reduce CO2 emissions with bio-fuel, to hotel chains eliminating single-use plastics, we have already witnessed a positive impact from these initiatives with carriers such as United Airlines reporting a 45% improvement on fuel efficiency since 1990. With key suppliers making positive changes in the name of sustainability, the next question to ask is whether businesses with travel programmes are doing the same?

Millennials are expected to make up over 50% of the global workforce in 2020 and with 87% of them stating that they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues, it is within businesses’ best interest to consider adopting sustainable practices into their business travel activities. While there are ways for individuals to be sustainable on the road (see below), there is a much greater need for businesses to revise their travel policies to ensure organisational-wide sustainability for their travelling workforce. The challenge here is balancing sustainability with cost.

Ethical practices while travelling-2

Air Travel

Air travel is usually the largest part of any corporate spend and contributes the highest level of carbon emissions across the entire transportation industry – IATA claims that aircraft contribute 2% of man-made CO2 emissions each year – and it’s a growth industry, so there is a pressing need to look closely at which suppliers are being utilised to comply with the increasing prominence of ESG – environmental, social and governance criteria.

Richer NDC content will allow corporates to make more planet-friendly choices for their workforce, such as flying routes that don’t include unnecessary stopovers. Alternatively, for domestic and short-haul travel, corporates will be able to set policies in place that encourage rail or car hire.



One of the easiest ways to improve sustainability within your travel programme is by preferencing accommodation providers that prioritise sustainability. Check their restaurant food sourcing, recycling habits, amenities and services. Recently, Meliá Hotels International announced a new sustainable financing agreement which links 50% of the hotel chain’s financing to its performance in sustainability. Voted third most sustainable hotel in the world according to RobecoSAM, Gabriel Escarrer, Executive Vice President and CEO of the hotel company said, "These new financing agreements represent a new challenge for us and a stimulus for constant improvement.” Travel managers can also encourage travellers to engage in hotel’s sustainability practices, further cementing those supplier/business relationships through aligned aspirations for a cleaner planet.

87% of millennials state that they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues

Ground Transport

Rail travel is the most sustainable option for ground travel as it uses less energy per person and per mile than car travel. If road travel is required, businesses can patronise those car hire companies with electric or hybrid fleets, saving CO2 emissions and fuel costs. Electric car-charging stations are numerous in large cities across the UK and continental Europe and located at an increasing number of hotels including certain AccorHotels, Melia, InterContinental Hotels Group and Best Western properties.


Cost to the environment vs cost to the business

Long-term sustainability requires investment, from travel suppliers, individual travellers and companies witha travelling workforce. And because the change to more responsible travel has yet to reach its tipping point, sustainable choices may occur a cost until they become the norm. The best practice currently is for travel managers to demonstrate the quantifiable benefit to their stakeholders by changing attitudes and booking behaviours of travellers and travel bookers. By working together with their TMC, companies can report on the impact these changes are making.

Ensuring travellers abide to a new policy can be challenging as nobody likes change. The adoption of a corporate online booking tool (OBT) - which can display only the preferred, sustainable suppliers - will help monitor compliance and ultimately result in greater savings, increased traveller safety and more relevantly – sustainability. It’s essential to communicate the rationale for the changes then reward travellers for making good travel choices by celebrating progress. As a business, this will improve morale and builds stronger employee/business relationships. 

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