As we approach Earth Day, you might make a nod to the holiday in the company newsletter, or donate to some worthy sustainability cause. But how sustainable is your company, really? Creating a sustainable travel and expense program matters to your employees.
Here’s why, plus everything you need to know about creating a sustainable travel and expense program for your SME.
Sustainability matters to employees now more than ever
It’s no secret that we’re in the middle of a battle for talent, with talent retention becoming more difficult than ever, talent shortages plaguing just about every industry and trends like quiet quitting running rampant. However, there’s one way that you can attract talent and keep existing talent satisfied, and it’s by fulfilling an employee demand that’s not going anywhere (in fact, this is an employee demand that Harvard Business Review was discussing all the way back in 2013). Employees want to work for employers who put sustainability first, who actually live up to their climate commitments and who are more than just all talk.
As one TIME article from late last year detailed, about 70% of employees and job seekers find employers with sustainability programs more appealing than those without sustainability programs.
And while employees are keeping an eye on employers’ sustainability habits, consumers on a broader scale are thinking about how travel impacts the environment. An IBM report found that about 40% of global consumers put environmental impact factors above cost, comfort and convenience when booking transportation. About a third of travelers likewise felt that their personal travel habits were impacting the environment.
For companies keeping an eye on both concerns, the report deduced, “Empowering employees to take advantage of opportunities to travel more sustainably can help fulfill their desire to make a difference — and, over time, help to shrink a company’s carbon footprint.”
Addressing employee concerns and sustainability commitment.
All the above said, thinking about sustainable travel and creating a sustainable travel and expense program for your SME will serve multiple purposes. You’ll address employees’ concerns about travel’s impact on the environment overall, while also proving your company’s commitment to sustainability to those same employees.
So how do you actually go about forming a sustainable travel and expense program? Here are a few ways to get started.
Look at your current state.
The first thing you have to do is consider your current state. Just like with any goal, knowing your starting point will allow you to measure your progress and compile key data. Evaluate your company’s current travel and your travel and expense program and determine your correlating carbon footprint. You may need to enlist an outside auditor to assist, or you can find some TMCs that can help with this.
Once you know your company’s carbon footprint, you can better plan for reducing that footprint as you make future travel plans, and measure your progress (or lack thereof).
Form a new travel policy or adjust an existing one to promote more sustainable travel.
Once you understand how your company’s current travel choices impact the environment, you can begin implementing a new, sustainable travel and expense program by either creating a new, sustainability-focused travel policy or adjusting your existing travel policy to be more environmentally friendly.
Not sure where to start? There are many ways you can adjust existing policies to promote more sustainable travel choices among your team members.
When planning trips, try to get the highest ROI out of each trip possible, by eliminating shorter trips and opting for longer, fewer trips throughout the quarter or year. This will mean fewer flights over time, reducing your carbon footprint.
Ask traveling team members to adjust their forms of transportation.
When possible, avoid short-haul flights and, instead, ask employees to opt for rail travel or renting a hybrid or electric rental car.
When employees are just traveling across town, ask them to use public transportation versus using a ride share service (or, if ride share services are a must, stress the importance of choosing hybrid or electric ride share vehicles). For some companies, office-provided bike rentals may also be an option.
Even for trips where a long-haul flight is necessary, it’s still possible to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by requesting travelers book with airlines that are actively putting sustainability efforts at the forefront of their operations (through things like newer, more environmentally friendly aircraft or carbon offset programs).
Beyond transportation, encourage your travelers to book (if they do their own booking) eco-friendly accommodations.
Offset the travel that you can’t control.
Of course, even with all the above efforts, there may be some travel that you just can’t adjust, or even some travel that it would be too expensive to adjust. In these cases, it may make more sense for your team to simply offset travel via a carbon offsetting program.
Choosing a travel carbon offsetting program for your corporate travel is a goal that your TMC might be able to help you with.
Build the right expectations.
If these are all going to be major changes for your team, set the right expectations when it comes to your new sustainable travel and expense program. It’s going to take time to get everyone compliant with the new or updated policy. However, while you patiently get your teams onboard, don’t slack or backslide — you’ve made these changes for a reason, and you want to see the results that follow.
Analyze your data — and analyze it again.
As your new sustainable travel and expense program gets going, keep an eye on your carbon footprint data and how it fluctuates. After six months or a year, how has the data changed compared to the data you discovered when you first audited your company’s travel impact?
The more data you have at your disposal, the more you can fine-tune your sustainable travel and expense program to best fit your company’s and employees’ needs.