How to Fuel a More Sustainable Future for Business Travel

The process for how we travel has changed as a result of COVID-19, but our modes and methods for getting around remain largely the same: planes, automobiles, and transportation systems reliant on fossil fuels. As travelers return to the road and businesses kick back into high gear, the conversation around sustainability is taking off with airlines leading the charge.

Airlines, cars, and hotels all contribute to emissions and deplete natural resources over time, but technological advancements, heightened awareness, and new partnerships are lessening the impact. From carbon offsetting to sustainable fuel partnerships, here’s a look at the work underway to envision a new world of travel that is better for both your business and the environment.

Airline Partnerships

Planes are often the most visual symbol of travel’s impact on the environment, even though airlines only account for 1.9 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. There is no denying the massive impact one plane or route can have though, which is why most major airlines have prioritized new sustainability goals for the next 10-20 years.

One solution is renewable jet fuel. An alternative to traditional kerosene-based jet fuels, sustainable aviation fluids may be created from a variety of sources, including animal feedstock and hydrogen. While airlines have been experimenting with and using alternative fuel sources for years, the real momentum is being driven by partnerships with corporate customers. United has teamed up with more than a dozen of its largest corporate customers to commit to buying sustainable fuel, which will reduce its impact on the environment by the equivalent of 220 million passenger miles. Similarly, Delta and American have recently committed to comparable partnerships with big name businesses.

In addition to customer-airline partnerships, technological innovations offer a glimpse into the future of aviation. Currently, more than 200 electric airplane projects are in development, more than at any point in history. Zero-emission aircraft hover just over the horizon, and this past fall Airbus unveiled a new concept for a zero-emission airplane slated to hit the runway by 2035.

Carbon Offsetting

For smaller companies, such partnerships may not be feasible right away, but there are still steps that growing and emerging businesses can take to reduce their carbon footprint. One solution is working with your Travel Management Company (TMC) to offset the emissions of your travel program with the goal of becoming carbon neutral.

At Direct Travel, we partner with leading sustainability experts South Pole to provide clients with a path for taking their corporate travel programs green. The South Pole team has helped develop more than 700 carbon emission reduction projects around the world, representing the equivalent of 21 million cars taken off the road.

How does this process work? To start, South Pole measures your business’s carbon footprint in order to determine the total emissions of your travelers. From there, sustainability benchmarks can be established based on industry best practices and stakeholder expectations.

The next step is identifying carbon offset options to help your organization meet these benchmarks. Carbon offset options may include reforestation, forest conservation, renewable energy investments, and energy efficient community projects. Each option is verified by a neutral third-party and provides a measurable volume of greenhouse gas reduction associated with the cost. By choosing to invest in such projects, businesses effectively offset the emissions of their own travel programs. 

A Greener Future

As the travel industry rebuilds at record speed, it’s clear that sustainability will be a key building block in the post-pandemic future. Traveler sentiment is also changing, with more than 80 percent of travelers saying sustainable travel is a priority for them moving forward.

To stay ahead of the curve, we recommend taking the proper steps now to foster an environmentally sustainable approach for your corporate travel. Our team can help you evaluate your current program and pinpoint sustainable solutions to start implementing now. Ready to go green? Contact us for more information.