Efforts to prioritize sustainability have continued to grow as a focus for most businesses, particularly as it relates to employee travel and reducing carbon emissions. However, while many organizations have expressed interest in implementing sustainable practices, there still remain substantial operational gaps and barriers to action.
In fact, a recent report from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) revealed that 85% of global companies are not implementing sustainable initiatives or meeting the mark to reduce corporate travel emissions. Analysts predict that green programs will reshape the travel program landscape in the next few years, but what about actionable steps for the here and now?
As you consider sustainable practices to include within your own travel program, we recommend first evaluating current trends and then assessing which steps (big or small) make sense for your business. Since meaningful change often starts at the ground level, we have also made recommendations for how your travelers can take actions that contribute to a healthier planet.
Partner with Sustainable Suppliers
One of the best ways to improve your approach to sustainability is to partner with eco-conscious suppliers who have already implemented clear plans and metrics for reporting. By working with suppliers who share this common goal, you can immediately lessen the impact of your travel program on the environment.
When it comes to lodging, Hilton has created the LightStay System, which provides key environmental data and reporting across the entire portfolio. Hilton has also set the bar even higher as the first major hospitality group to create scientific targets that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The company even developed a "Watts, Water & Waste" reduction program to further reduce its carbon footprint. Similarly, IHG has made great strides towards environmental accountability with its Green Engage System. This program is comprised of four tiers of certification and offers over 200 green solutions aimed at helping reduce energy, water, and waste. All IHG properties are required to register at Level 1, and properties that reach Level 3 can decrease energy consumption by 25%.
For the airlines, going green is all about improving fuel quality and efficiency. A primary example is United Airlines, which recently launched a new investment fund that will support technology and production for synthetic fuel development for aircraft. The company also promotes green initiatives by giving shoppers an estimated carbon footprint for selected flights. Delta Air Lines has been another leader in sustainability, backed by a commitment to achieve net zero by 2050. The company has also prioritized $1 billion in sustainable initiatives, including investments in the Sustainable Skies Lab—the first in this category to amp up research, design, and testing geared towards innovative sustainability strategies.
On the ground transportation front, Enterprise has pioneered new green practices to make renting a car more eco-friendly than before. Take for instance the Commute with Enterprise program, which makes it easier for employees to connect with co-workers and carpool to the office. Businesses can even use the "smarter commute" calculator to determine the total reduction in emissions from employees utilizing the program.
Reduce Emissions at the Traveler Level
Beyond working with responsible suppliers, efforts to reduce the impact of travel on environment can be made at the individual level. For example, prompting employees to book hotels committed to green practices within your online booking tool (OBT) is a straightforward way to promote sustainability. This is evident in recent research, which found that 75% of travel buyers want their OBT to include carbon budgets and emission capabilities.
In addition to updating your travel policy and OBT to make green choices easier to book, here are other steps your travelers can take to reduce their carbon footprint during business trips:
Bring a water bottle. Plastic water bottles wreak havoc on the environment, especially marine life. Most airports now offer filtered water stations where travelers can quickly fill up their personal water bottles after exiting security checkpoints.
Utilize housekeeping for longer trips. When staying at a hotel for only two or three nights, it’s best to forgo housekeeping. Reducing water used to clean sheets and bedding is a great way for hotels to stay within their sustainability goals.
Carpool or take public transportation. Taking advantage of group transport (when possible and safe) is more environmentally friendly than using a taxi or Uber.
Rent fuel-efficient cars. When renting a car, request an electric, hybrid, or highly fuel-efficient vehicle.
Pack light if possible. Lighter suitcases decrease the weight on the aircraft, thus requiring less fuel and reducing emissions from the flight.
Sustainability Simplified With a TMC
On a business management level, your organization can improve sustainability efforts by setting emission reduction targets. When it comes to asking the right questions and making meaningful progress in this arena, a partnership with a trusted travel management company (TMC) can help you simplify your CO2 reduction process.
At Direct Travel, we utilize our exclusive Direct ATPI Halo platform to measure, reduce, and offset your carbon footprint through environmental projects that provide maximum choice and total transparency. We partner with world-leading offsetting projects selected for their quality, integrity, and effectiveness in correlation to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most importantly, Direct ATPI Halo brings tangible outcomes to the forefront and links project certificates to measurable success.
Carbon offset options may involve reforestation, renewable energy investments, or energy-efficient community projects. Some of the projects currently in our portfolio include:
Qianbei Afforestation: Enhancing biodiversity by planting native trees in the Guizhou Province of China, this project is expected to remove an average of 731,897 tCO2e annually over its lifetime, more than 21 million tons in total.
Ntakata REDD+ project: Located in Africa's Tanganyika District, this project covers 216,000 hectares of land and prevents the deforestation of over 1.25 million trees each year.
Amayo 40MW Wind project: Delivering renewable, affordable and clean electricity in the Rivas Municipality of Southwest Nicaragua, generating 260 GWh per year, an amount equivalent to 6% of Nicaragua’s electricity generation.
In addition to carbon offset projects, our team can provide consultation on general practices to reduce emissions through behavioral change, such as taking a train versus short haul air or flying direct versus multi-stop flights. For customers that wish to enhance their travelers' selections, we also partner with third party technologies to show specific carbon emissions on flight, hotel, and car options prior to booking.