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The role of corporate travel policies in reducing carbon footprints

There is a growing global interest among organisations to gain a deeper understanding of their sustainability objectives and how their corporate travel practices contribute to them. Travel plays a contributing role in carbon emissions, underlining the increasing importance of optimising travel policies as businesses strive to enhance their environmental consciousness.

In this blog, we discuss the role of corporate travel policies in carbon footprint reduction and explore strategies that companies can adopt to foster sustainability in their travel practices. By taking proactive measures, businesses may successfully reduce their environmental impact while still meeting their travel requirements.

Travel policies to empower sustainable choices

Implementing a climate-conscious travel policy empowers travellers to make better decisions, with GBTA reporting 70% of travel buyers are integrating, or are planning to integrate sustainability considerations into their travel policy. Moreover, a Wakefield Global Business Travel Report revealed that 94% of business travellers consider sustainability information for their travel options important, with 48% emphasising the significance of visual indicators illustrating the environmental effects.

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The significance of corporate travel policies in reducing carbon emissions lies in their ability to establish a framework for sustainable travel practices. By implementing these policies, organisations may decrease their carbon footprint by encouraging employees to make environmentally responsible choices during work-related travel. These choices can be as straightforward as setting parameters around the class of travel, opting for rail transportation when feasible, selecting hotels with recognised green certifications, or utilising electric vehicles for car rental purposes. By incorporating small yet impactful changes, organisations may reduce their overall carbon footprint.

Carbon footprint metrics

Tracking carbon footprint metrics is important to corporate travel policies because it allows companies to measure and manage their environmental impact. By monitoring their carbon footprint, companies may identify areas where they can reduce their carbon emissions and implement more sustainable travel practices. Data collection and tracking sustainability metrics are important and will vary from business to business, but will form the benchmark to report on results.

Deloitte surveyed travel buyers on seven sustainability metrics across hotel, air, and car that might be used to collect and track data and calculate a trip’s carbon footprint. The survey found that the top-ranked metric for hotels was proximity to destination to minimise transport-related emissions. The top-ranked metric for airlines was the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The top-ranked metric for car rental services was the availability of electric vehicles (EV). By choosing an EV for corporate travel, companies may reduce their carbon footprint as they emit on average more than 3 times less CO2 than equivalent petrol vehicles.

Key elements of a sustainable corporate travel policy

A Business Travel News (BTN) sustainable business travel report found that 45% of respondents (Travel Managers) are charged with modifying their travellers’ booking behaviour to be more sustainably sound. A well-thought-out corporate travel policy may help a company reduce its carbon footprint and improve employee wellbeing. The corporate travel policy should aim to encourage employees to apply their ‘green thumb’ when booking travel.

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Establish measurable goals

By setting and establishing measurable goals, organisations can actively work towards minimising their travel-related carbon footprint. Regular monitoring and reporting on progress towards these targets ensures accountability and allows for necessary adjustments to be made along the way.

To effectively set these targets, organisations may consider factors such as the current carbon emissions generated by their corporate travel activities, industry benchmarks, and the feasibility of implementing sustainable practices. Visibility of CO2 emissions at the point of sale in an organisation’s preferred TMCs online booking tool can help guide Travel Bookers and travellers to making sustainable choices.

Sustainable travel suppliers

A BTN report found that 22% of Travel Managers have the task of exploring options such as sustainable aviation fuel, carbon sequestration (reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), or other options. Travel suppliers have invested significantly in initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint and demonstrate their green commitment—from designing brand-wide initiatives and striving to maintain multiple sustainability certifications.

BTN’s 2023 report also discovered 66% of Travel Managers indicated that they ask for at least some sustainability information in travel supplier RFPs, compared with 55% in 2021. Most buyers acknowledged sustainability doesn’t outweigh cost or location when determining which suppliers will be selected to join a travel programme. However, 20% of 2023 respondents indicated information on sustainable practices significantly factors into supplier selection, while another 42% said it could break a tie between evenly matched suppliers.

By including environmentally friendly accommodation choices in the booking options, individuals can make sustainable booking decisions that may have a beneficial impact. Examples may include:

  • Hotels that employ renewable energy sources or implement recycling programmes.
  • Selecting meeting venues that prioritise sustainability, such as those with green certifications, or waste reduction initiatives.
  • Opting for airlines that utilise sustainable aviation fuel, operate modern and fuel-efficient aircraft, or offer carbon offset programmes that invest in projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

Another option that can be encouraged via corporate travel policies is to choose Economy Class over Business Class and take direct services over multi-stops. Based on a CTM and RDC aviation business travel emission route analysis, if a passenger was to fly from Sydney to Singapore in Business Class, they would generate 2379.93 kg or 2.4 metric tonnes of CO2 as opposed to only 712.33 kg or 0.72 metric tonnes in Economy. This demonstrates Economy seats on average may produce three times less CO2.

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Employee education and engagement

There is limited purpose in having a corporate travel policy if travellers do not understand it. Educating the workforce on the importance of sustainable travel and providing training on how to make sustainable choices will be important when managing the business travel programme. A GBTA report discovered that 71% of respondents have a dedicated sustainability team in their organisation, which demonstrates an investment in their teams and skills to help deliver knowledge, guidance, and expertise in this area.

By educating employees on their sustainable corporate travel policy, companies may reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainable business practices. Additionally, a sustainable travel policy can help companies attract and retain employees who prioritise sustainability and want to work for a company that shares their values.

Does your corporate travel policy support your sustainability goals?

Contact CTM today.