A four-step framework for building a sustainable business travel program

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A four-step framework for building a sustainable business travel program

By Julien Etchanchu, Senior Director, Sustainable Collaboration

Sustainability is top of mind for every business leader today, as climate change continues to impact everyone in the world and consumers increasingly demand that businesses act on their promises to help the environment.

For business travel managers, that means creating a holistic strategy for sustainability that isn’t just about reducing emissions, but about engaging employees in achieving sustainability goals. But what does this look like? While each company must take its own tailored approach to building a sustainability strategy, there are four key elements that will set an organization up for success. These are:

  1. Building a data-driven foundation
  2. Ensuring organizational alignment
  3. Setting achievable science-based targets
  4. Developing a strong employee engagement strategy

Here are some of the considerations as you use this framework.


1. Building a data-driven foundation

Data should be the foundation of any travel program, and that applies to sustainable travel, too. It’s essential to start by setting an accurate baseline to understand where you are, and where you’d like to be. That way, you can set achievable, science-based targets.

A good place to start is to understand the carbon footprint of your travel program. In measuring this, it’s essential to cast a wide net: don’t just look at air travel, but also analyze your hotel, rail, and car programs. Accurate reporting is possible, but you need to consider additional factors like hotel amenities and eco-labels, country-level electricity mix and rail providers’ individual sustainability initiatives.

This is why we developed our own proprietary business travel carbon emissions methodology – GATE4 – to provide this necessary level of granularity. With this kind of data, your business travel sustainability goals can be accurate and realistic.

2. Ensuring organizational alignment

Your sustainability strategy can’t exist in a vacuum. It’s important that every part of the business works together to ensure that your business travel program goals align with company-wide goals. That means breaking down silos and collaborating across teams. For example, that might mean that the travel team works closely with the sustainability or ESG team. This type of collaboration keeps everyone aligned in working toward your company’s goals.

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3. Setting achievable science-based targets

In building a sustainable business travel program, it’s vital to understand the science, and avoid greenwashing – making empty promises about your planned sustainability initiatives. For example, some businesses say they are already carbon neutral, even though the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) has made it clear that this won’t be achievable at the company level until at least 2030. In setting targets, it’s important to truly understand carbon offsetting and consider setting an internal carbon price which gives climate risks a monetary value. This transparency can help you set achievable and measurable targets.

4. Developing a strong employee engagement strategy

If you really want to drive your sustainable travel program forward, you need to engage and empower your employees to act on the goals and initiatives you have set. Building the perfect business travel program can only make a difference if your travelers use it. Don’t forget, employee engagement isn’t about one-way communication of your strategy; it’s about two-way communication, so you can learn what matters to them as you push your program forward. It’s essential to understand employees’ motivations and concerns so you can address these to get them invested in your sustainability strategy.

Every company is different, but we have found that the four central elements remain the same in building a strong foundation for sustainable business travel: let data drive the strategy, build cross-functional alignment, set science-based goals, and engage with your employees. This structure helps you determine where your strategy stands today and where you’re headed and put the right program in place to help you achieve sustainability targets for your program and for the organization.

Sustainable business travel in action

Want to learn more about how to apply these strategies to your program? Advito has been working with LinkedIn as the workplace technology leaders builds a best-in-class sustainable business travel program that includes a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

Our in-depth report includes data on sustainability and business travel and shows the specific actions LinkedIn is taking to build a data-driven, internally aligned, and engaging sustainable business travel program. Get your copy here.

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