In the post-pandemic world, business travel is being scrutinized like never before. Worldwide lockdowns showed companies how much workers can get done from home, which led to a re-examination of workplace practices in general. Do we really need to work from the office? What do all the traveling workers do? And what is the most sustainable way to travel?
Business travel is not only being examined from a financial perspective. As more and more companies have the desire to showcase their equity, sustainability and governance initiatives, these businesses want to prove that their employees are traveling in a sustainable way. Encouraging sustainable ways to travel also makes employees feel like they are helping mitigate a climate problem rather than adding to it.
Time and again, business travel has proven to be a necessity for so many reasons.
Client meetings, special team projects and business development is not the kind of work that can be done over the phone or Zoom. There are some activities that require employees to meet with clients in person, and no technology makes up for those personal meetings.
With that in mind, Travel Managers want to encourage their team to travel in the greenest way possible and reduce their company’s overall carbon footprint. Let’s take a look at what are the most sustainable ways to travel.
The Best Earth-Friendly Ways to Travel
You guessed it, walking or cycling is at the top of the list. According to Our World in Data, riding a bike instead of driving for short trips reduces travel emissions by 75%. However, neither bicycling nor walking are very practical if you’re sending sales teams around the country.
After walking or cycling, traveling by rail is the greenest way of getting from place to place, by a wide margin.
Riding a train rather than driving a car for medium-length distances reduces emissions by 80%. And finally, taking a train instead of flying domestically would reduce your emissions by 84%.
Public transportation by bus also produces much less Co2 emissions than traveling by passenger car.
While air travel is the most emission-heavy mode of transportation, there are still practices in booking flights that will cut down on emissions.
Of course, all these figures adjust when taking into account how many people will be traveling together.
Strategizing Sustainable Travel
There are many steps you can take to help your workforce travel more sustainably when they set out to conduct business in the field. All it takes is a shift of mindset and a little more pre-planning. Following are some examples of actions Travelers can take to reduce carbon emissions in their everyday business travels.
Riding the Rails
As said above, train travel is the much-preferred method in terms of doing the least harm to the planet. Take rail when you can, especially in major metropolitan areas that have their own rapid transit systems, like the subway in New York or the Metro in Washington. Often the rapid transit system will have direct stops at the airport, as well. Nationally, Amtrak is linked to many bus systems that can take passengers to locations off their lines.
Consider taking public transportation when it’s feasible. When you are planning trips, check the distances from hotels to conference centers. Many times, there are shuttle buses Travelers can take directly, which eliminates the need for renting a car.
When a group of employees travel together. for example, to the same conference, encourage them to ride-share to and from the hotel and venue. Employees scattering at the airport and each getting into an Uber or taxi alone is not good for the planet or the travel budget.
If passenger car travel looks like the only practical or feasible mode of transportation, consider renting an electric vehicle rather than a gasoline-powered car or truck. In many cases, Travelers will save in emissions and money.
Practice Freeway Miles
If you must drive a gas-powered vehicle, advise drivers to stay on freeways rather than wind through city streets. When you cruise at a steady pace, you save fuel over stop-and-go driving.
Fly Direct Whenever Possible
When booking flights, always choose direct flights instead of flights with one or more layovers. Airplanes use the most fuel at take-off and landing, so the fewer flights on an itinerary, the better, from an environmental point of view. It is also more sustainable to fly on trips of a few hundred miles when the other option would be to drive alone.
It may seem like a small action, but pack lighter than usual. Leave the extra pair of shoes or extra outfit at home. Every extra pound in your luggage is a drag on resources and increases emissions.
Implement a Sustainable Travel Policy
This is a top-of-mind issue as business travel continues to build back to pre-pandemic levels. A recent Deloitte study found that one-third of travel managers (35%) surveyed say their companies have pledged to reduce carbon emissions by a specific amount within a certain time period, affecting when and how employees travel. Most importantly, create a program within your company to outline your goals and objectives with sustainable travel. Explaining the reasoning behind decisions such as rail travel over air will go a long way to ensure cooperation from Travelers. Once on board with the system, set sustainability goals for the company, for example to reduce emissions by 50% from the previous year.
Get a Partner for Your Sustainability Efforts
As companies start to make more responsible and sustainable travel decisions, they need partners that can help them maximize the sustainability of their travel programs. That’s exactly what we do at JTB Business Travel. We work with organizations of all sizes to ensure that their travel programs fulfill objectives, including goals related to sustainability.