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How Companies Can Make Business Travel Sustainable

By CSRWire Blogs

Submitted by Megan Wild

Business travel is necessary because it’s how many companies serve their clients. The ability to visit client locations represents the ability to show up, build relationships and deliver products on all accounts.

Yet, sustainability is a growing concern, as business travel itself correlates strongly to high degrees of greenhouse emissions. More corporations are tracking their environmental footprints. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) conducted a study surveying around 300 European and U.S. travel managers to understand how they perceive the importance of sustainability initiatives and their impact:

  • 40 percent of European and American corporations have witnessed measurable benefits of sustainability initiatives with a better public image, more productive and efficient business processes and improved employee morale.

  • For companies that track their environmental footprint, almost all measure air travel activity, with 92 percent in the U.S. and 96 percent across Europe looking at these numbers.

  • 44 percent of European companies believe the impact of rail suppliers and car rental to be important. Nearly half receive CO2 emissions reports.

  • Safety and security are priorities when it comes to investing in sustainability for about 70 percent of both U.S. and Europe-based companies. Additionally, 71 percent of European companies favor the long-term cost savings of sustainability, while 68 percent of American companies are focused on the contribution to society that sustainability provides.

Developing Green Travel Policies and Emissions Tips

How do companies develop a policy on travel and strategize need, frequency and mode of travel in relation to sustainability? A necessary part of any company’s strategy centers on the need to reduce the number of employees traveling and how they are commuting, with a focus on travel modes that have low-carbon emissions:

1. Raise awareness about low-carbon driving.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the “largest absolute increase in 2014 energy-related carbon dioxide emissions was from the transportation sector.” Higher fuel consumption occurred between 2013-2014 due to decreases in fuel prices.

To reduce your company’s reliance on fossil fuels for transportation, educate staff on available low-carbon driving options. If employees use company cars, strive to assign vehicles with low carbon impact. Additionally, if employees lease vehicles, offer incentives to drive cars with less impact, such electric, hybrid and low-carbon vehicles.

2. Fly wisely and only as necessary.

Airplane travel is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Flying is unavoidable in certain circumstances, but it’s better to fly wisely when you do.

Consider these ideas on reducing your impact on emissions when flying:

  • Flying non-stop cuts down on half of a single flight’s emissions since you’re avoiding extra landings, takeoffs and taxi times. Without layovers, you get to your client faster and more efficiently as well.

  • For daytime flights, choose economy. This class impacts the climate less because it allows more people on the plane, and that means less emissions per person.

  • Bring only one carry-on for your flight. One bag is easier to handle and is less hassle when boarding.

  • Rather than flying, take the train, if possible.

3. Support biking to work.

In the past decade, there has been a 60 percent increase of employees who bike to work in the United States. More cities are developing bike-share programs, bike lanes and other supportive structures to encourage green commuting.

The development of a cycling culture at work encourages physical exercise, motivation and the building of community in the office. Like carpooling, many people develop bike trains that follow a regular commuting route to and from a destination. Bike trains are developed for leisure, exercise and commuting to and from work.

Give incentives to employees to encourage and reward work-related commuting. Such incentives may be bike racks, gift cards, lunch catering celebrations and the inclusion of support structures that encourage an easier cycling commute (lockers, showers or a bike repair area).

The health impacts of biking improve employee morale as well by reducing or avoiding the tiring, stressful drives that affect an employee’s ability to be productive and happy at work.

4. While in town, invest in using public and alternative transportation.

When visiting an unfamiliar town, choose a low impact rental car or share a cab. Use public transportation to cut down further on business costs and to get to know the area. Some hotels offer bike rentals as well.

When using a form of alternative or public transportation, you’re generally safer than trying to drive, especially when in an unfamiliar area. You’ll also ensure you don’t arrive to a meeting with your client stressed out by road rage, traffic jams or from getting lost.

5. Measure and track sustainability through policy and procedure.

Implement policies and procedures that measure and improve upon cost, efficiency and environmental impact. Travel spent against the money you have generated is very important to measure across the board.

Consider booking large trips or regional trips closely together in terms of time and route. Develop policies that reasonably encourage employees to do more within a single trip to conserve time and gas.

Consult with travel managers for CO2 emissions reports from vendors and tips on integrating  sustainability into travel programs. Utilize this information to develop procedures to be put into practice to support sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability in business travel is an important issue as corporations analyze their place in global economics in relation to the bigger picture of environmental impact. Sustainability is measurable, and policies that support it do more than save the environment — they improve employee morale, cut unnecessary costs and nurture company culture. Additionally, sustainability builds a positive corporate influence in the world.