As you begin to contemplate your business goals for the new year, your attention may be turning to sustainability. However, it can be difficult to know how to get started with sustainability.
Carbon footprints, carbon credits, travel policies, government mandates (depending on where across the globe you’re located) — it can all be a lot to wrap your head around. That said, when it comes to making your business and your business’s travel policies more sustainable, the important thing is to just start somewhere. As more and more employees and consumers, as well as governing bodies, demand that corporations acknowledge their impact on the planet and do something about it, you can’t afford to wait any longer.
Here’s how to get started with sustainability now.
Take a Look at Your Travel Policy
One area where the average SME is making a big impact in sustainability? Business travel. For example, according to Reuters, while business Travelers make up only 12% of overall Travelers, they account for 30% of travel-related carbon emissions. Business travel’s large carbon footprint is due to a few reasons, says the World Economic Forum. Business travel often relies on air and car travel rather than more sustainable modes of transportation. And Business Travelers often fly in business or first-class seats. These come with a larger carbon footprint (four times the size of an economy-class seat). Business Travelers also simply fly more often than leisure Travelers.
Because of all the above, one of the best places you can look for ways to easily minimize your environmental impact is within your travel policy.
Consider enacting new guidelines around how your business Travelers get around and conduct business. Limit short trips that require flying and other carbon-heavy modes of transportation, but that offer little in the way of results or productivity. Encourage the use of more sustainable transportation, such as rail travel or public transportation, where possible.
Consider Your Travel Booking Technology
As you get started with sustainability and consider changes you could make to your travel policy, also think about your company’s travel booking technology. Whether you allow Travelers to book their trips on their own or work with a Travel Manager or Travel Management Company (TMC), there may be ways to make the entire booking process more sustainable.
There are myriad tools and travel booking platforms currently available to both business Travelers and leisure Travelers that put sustainability at the forefront. Tools like Goodwings encourage Travelers to book greener flights that are direct and/or use more eco-friendly aircraft.
If you work with a Travel Manager or TMC (or are shopping around for one), discuss how you want to get started with sustainability and how they can help. Stress the need for sustainable suppliers throughout your teams’ entire travel experience.
Gather and Rely on the Data
Every smart decision is backed by data and research. While you don’t want to get bogged down in the data as soon as you get started with sustainability, potentially delaying easy and smart changes like those discussed above, you still want to make data a priority.
Gather data related to your organization’s current impact. Identify where you have room for improvement and what you’re doing well. Talk to your stakeholders to better understand how your teams feel about current sustainability efforts or lack thereof.
Then, once your data is compiled, further adjust your decisions regarding your travel policy and travel booking platform. Also, adjust other aspects of your organization accordingly. Continue tracking relevant data points as the months and years go on. This way, you can see how your company’s sustainability evolves over time and then adjust your approach as needed.
Create a Culture of Sustainability
Of course, all your good intentions are just that — intentions — if you don’t have your entire organization on board. This is why it’s important to create a culture of sustainability within your teams. You need their buy-in in order for any sustainability-focused initiatives to work.
As such, don’t just roll out new travel policies or booking platforms without properly communicating with your teams. Ensure that these travel policies and new platforms will not make their lives and jobs more difficult. Stress to them the benefits of sustainability. Explain how new sustainable approaches to business travel can help make their lives and jobs easier and/or less stressful. For example, suppose the organization is focusing on longer, less frequent trips rather than one-off, one-day trips that require two flights. That means more time at home for your Travelers and a greater work-life balance.
Part of creating a culture of sustainability comes with gathering and relying on your data. When you gather the opinions of your stakeholders, including the opinions of your business Travelers and other employees, you’ll gain a better idea of what kinds of sustainability efforts they’d like to see and what they’re most likely to buy into.
Set Goals and Assign Responsibility
As you gain your team’s buy-in and begin developing a culture of sustainability, set goals surrounding your sustainability efforts. Depending on how your team works best and what motivates them, you might want to set loftier goals that inspire innovation and change. Or, you might want to set your sights a little lower so as to show your team how easy switching to a more sustainable focus can be.
Whatever your goals, assign responsibility to all stakeholders. Business Travelers should be held responsible for adhering to new travel policies. Travel Managers should respect your sustainable travel goals. All team members should keep sustainability in mind when making business decisions.
Getting Started with Sustainability is Likely Easier Than You Think
Getting started with sustainability is likely easier than you think. All it takes is a few basic, smart decisions. Don’t wait to begin considering your organization’s impact on the environment and taking measures to reduce it. In today’s business climate, a focus on sustainability is necessary in order to remain competitive and compliant.