Only one in six travel management professionals (16 percent) currently incentivize their business travelers to stay in hotels with sustainable practices, according to a new study by the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), in partnership with AIG Travel. Even fewer (4 percent) require travelers to book suppliers with sustainable practices, which the GBTA said leaves a huge opportunity for the business travel industry to adopt and even incentivize more sustainable practices.
The study, Corporate Social Responsibility: Going Beyond Green, also showed that only 5 percent of travel management professionals incentivize travelers to fly direct, 3 percent incentivize travelers to use public transportation where available and 2 percent incentivize travelers to share transportation to and from the airport when traveling with co-workers, the GBTA said.
“Now more than ever before, companies are taking a holistic approach to improving what many call the ‘triple bottom line,’ comprised of social, environmental and financial factors, or the ‘three P’s,” people, planet and profits,” said Kate Vasiloff, GBTA research director. “Travel management professionals are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role within their organizations when it comes to making environmentally-conscious travel policies, vendor and supplier selections and options for travelers.”
More than half (53 percent) of travel management professionals report their companies have a formal corporate sustainability program in place. When it comes to building sustainability into travel programs, the importance of evaluating existing and potential suppliers from a sustainability standpoint cannot be overlooked, the GBTA said. Travel management professionals already take into account a myriad of factors including price, traveler preference and convenience. Contracting with sustainability-focused suppliers signals an organization’s concern and commitment to reducing and counteracting the harmful impact of business travel on the environment.
When it comes to decisions for meeting and event planning, cost savings, convenience and sustainability often go hand-in-hand, the GBTA said. For example, hosting an event with accommodations within walking distance saves on transportation, enhances the attendee experience and cuts down on the need to use CO2-emitting vehicles to transport attendees. When considering factors in a decision to contract with meetings and event suppliers, the top three sustainability-focused factors travel management professionals give some or a lot of consideration to include: finding a venue with enough walkable housing options to accommodate all attendees (59 percent), selecting cities with airports accessible by public transportation (34 percent) and choosing venues that support paperless events through use of digital tools and technology (27 percent).
As travel arrangements involve travel management professionals, suppliers and oftentimes, travel management companies (TMCs), each have an important role to play in measuring and reducing carbon emissions from business travel. The travel management professionals surveyed reported that 37 percent of their companies track the carbon footprint of their travelers; 23 percent use a sustainability index or scorecard system to understand the sustainability practices of key suppliers; and 7 percent set carbon emission reduction targets for TMCs.
“Travel is more accessible today than ever before, and with this access comes a responsibility to positively impact the places we visit, whether for business or for leisure,” said Jeff Rutledge, CEO of AIG Travel. “This research shows there is a major opportunity for companies to incorporate additional sustainability practices into their travel programs.”
Travel policy is a perfect vehicle to require or incentivize more sustainable practices – and, it can often save money as well, the GBTA said. The benefits of establishing and growing corporate social responsibility programs and other sustainability-focused efforts is boundless, ranging from reducing negative impacts on the environment to elevated public perception, increased financial gains and higher employee satisfaction.