How to make your business travel programme more sustainable

Sustainable Business Travel Programme

Daunting it may be, but starting is the most important, sustainable step for your travel programme.

Think about your corporate culture. To have an effective sustainability strategy, it must align with overall company goals and have support from across the business. Get early buy-in from your team, start discussions and lead by example.

Chances are your employees are adopting more sustainable choices in their personal life. And, they’ll welcome the chance to incorporate these ideals and initiatives at work. Travel is part of their life and their work.

Types of sustainability journeys

Sustainability journeys vary hugely, and are often determined by company size, resource and the nature of the business. Naturally, start-ups are at an advantage – they can build sustainability into their culture from the word go. However, for established businesses this can mean significant behavioural change.

It’s important though that steps taken are put into context and we all learn from each other. A number of larger businesses are busy adopting science-based targets, setting carbon output percentage reductions and committing to net zero targets. They are trailblazing a path that can be daunting and unrealistic for an SME. Nonetheless, their failures and successes will provide invaluable insights for anyone looking to build a more sustainable travel programme.

Is travel avoidance a sustainable option?

A number of ESG spokespeople are hitting headlines claiming that business travel should be avoided and that virtual meetings replaces the need for face-to-face meetings. But for many, this is simply not viable. The very nature of the work for certain sectors dictates that travel is still very much at the core of business success.

Let’s also not forget the businesses that carried on travelling throughout the pandemic – medical professionals, emergency suppliers, financial services for example. So, for the most part, we need to find a way to continue to travel. Just in a more sustainable way.

Foundations of a policy

Now we’ve established that avoiding travel altogether is not an option, reducing and mitigating impact is the next step. Start with a simple plan to measure the carbon footprint of your business travel.

There are many tools that can be implemented fairly easily, that will measure various travel outputs. Capture the data and get an idea of the level your programme is operating at.

Carbon emissions reporting

One of the easiest areas to measure in terms of carbon emission reporting is currently the flight. Airlines provide detailed inventory on their aircraft. Meaning carbon emission reports can be calculated based on a number of factors including flights, seats, aircraft and more.

Reporting is becoming more granular by the day. But for an SME taking your first steps on a sustainability journey, carbon emission reporting is a great place to start.

The wider travel supply chain can be a bit more complex in terms of measurements. Namely, the hotel market lacks global standardisation and ground transportation initiatives remain fragmented in places. Rail data, however, is advancing at pace. So domestic trips are easily calculated, and can be added to your data set.

Reducing carbon impact

Once you have an idea of your carbon footprint, you can think about ways to minimise or reduce your impact.

Carbon emissions vary dependent on vehicle type or age, ancillary products and options for electric substitutes. Analysing these reports identifies areas for improvement.

Most airlines now have sustainability plans in place. Initiatives include the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, aircraft fleet renewal, abolishing single use plastic and committing to net zero. So, even choosing a different airline could positively impact your carbon footprint.

Electric aircraft are still some way off, and the prioritisation of passenger safety will likely further delay progress. That said, we are seeing more electric ground transportation opportunities. Although demand is high and production is slow, meaning supply can’t always be guaranteed.

Changing behaviour

For a lot of SMEs, sustainability is a relatively new concept. Although the c-suite are generally on board, it can prove challenging to enact real cultural change. However, research is proving that a company that embraces sustainability is more likely to attract the best talent. According to a recent Deloitte survey*, 28% of Gen Z respondents say that climate change and safeguarding the environment is their top concern.

Sustainable Hotel Travel Programme

Making small changes in your travel programme is a good start. For example, highlighting eco-conscious hotels in popular destinations. With point of booking alternatives and pre-trip authorisation available, you can start to see big changes quickly. Encourage your team to join you on this journey and you will see quicker adoption of policy changes.

Carbon offsetting

Ideally, you reduce your impact and start to better measure your carbon footprint. With this in place, you can also consider carbon offsetting. Carbon offset projects provide options to invest in initiatives that effectively ‘offset’ your carbon footprint.

So, in exchange for a trip, you can grow a tree for example. This not only assists in C02 replacement, but also enriches the local community with secondary outputs such as work, supplies and food. Other carbon offset initiatives include investing into renewable energy projects.

Next steps

Now you know the basics, here are some simple steps to start your own sustainability journey.

  • Appoint an internal team – either enlist the help of sustainability experts or use a cross section of team members across your business
  • Find out if there is a wider resource available already involved in the ESG space – this could be procurement, HR, marketing…
  • Introduce the concept to your board and management, and get early buy-in
  • Consult MIDAS Travel who can review your travel policy, set up your carbon emission reporting and  advise on best practice

MIDAS Travel clients should request a travel programme review with their travel team.

If you’re an SME that wants to adapt a more sustainable travel programme, then