Sustainability in business travel is playing an increasing role in how companies think about social responsibility and how they handle day-to-day operations.
Climate change is an issue that always seems to be lurking somewhere in the background. That’s certainly true in the travel industry, where emissions can be high and where high-volume Travelers can make a disproportionate impact on the environment. Given the impact travel can make on the environment, sustainability in business travel is a hot topic in 2022.
Survey results from Business Travel News indicate that more companies are thinking about sustainability as it relates to their travel programs. See below for survey results, plus details on how different companies are approaching the relationship between sustainability and business travel.
A Plurality of Companies Have Increased Their Commitments to Lowering Emissions
BTN conducted its survey in early 2021. There were 318 respondents — 226 in North America, 87 in Europe and 5 in the Asia-Pacific region. Here’s a breakdown of responses to this question: “Has your company changed its overall carbon reduction targets (not just for travel) in the last 12 months?”
- 36.2% increased commitments.
- 20% did not have reduction targets but had started to consider them.
- 14.9% kept commitments the same.
- 14.9% did not have reduction targets and didn’t expect to implement them.
- 11.8% were unsure of their companies’ targets.
- 2.2% decreased commitments.
The results above indicate a broad push toward increasing commitments or implementing them. Of course, no two companies are exactly the same, and the path to lower emissions will be different for various organizations — especially as it relates to business travel.
Different Companies Make Different Impacts on the Environment
Companies operating in different industries will have wildly different impacts on the environment. Take the mining industry, for example. The mining industry is responsible for 4–7% of all greenhouse gas emissions around the world. But the vast majority of those emissions are related to company operations — not business travel.
Conversely, consulting firms are responsible for a much lower percentage of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. But team members at consulting firms are traveling to meet with clients weekly, which means that much of their environmental impact is related to business travel.
Given the comparison above, consulting firms have a greater ability to address sustainability through business travel. Other companies in other industries may have less of a travel-related opportunity — but more chances in other portions of their businesses.
How the Pandemic Sparked an Interest in Sustainable Business Travel
As consulting firms and other travel-intensive companies navigated the pandemic, they started to look at all aspects of their travel programs.
Companies started looking at the importance of business travel. What types of meetings could be held virtually with the same effectiveness as an in-person meeting? Companies also started looking more closely at the health and safety of their Travelers. What are the best ways to protect Travelers during the pandemic? And companies also examined the cost of business travel. What return on investment makes a business trip worth the cost, time and effort?
Naturally, as companies examined other aspects of business travel, they started to look at the sustainability of their travel programs. This pandemic-related examination of travel programs in their entirety is likely part of the renewed interest in sustainability in business travel.
The Role of TMCs in Sustainability
Given that companies like consulting firms make a significant travel-related impact on the environment, how do they plan on navigating a reduction in emissions? According to BTN’s survey, about 70% of companies plan to use their travel management company or booking tool for required information and reporting.
At JTB Business Travel, we serve as a TMC to businesses large and small, helping them maximize their travel-related ROI while creating comfortable and productive itineraries for Travelers. We’re constantly updating our products and services to stay ahead of the latest trends and best practices in business travel — sustainable travel included.
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