How purposeful travel can transform your business travel program in 2023

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How purposeful travel can transform your business travel program in 2023

By Shelley Fletcher-Bryant, Senior Director, Sales and Client Relationship Management

Today, travel managers are under pressure to juggle many priorities from sustainability to traveler well-being, all while still managing travel costs.

Rather than looking at each of these areas in a silo, purposeful travel is built on a foundation that brings each of these factors together to build a responsible business travel program. With travel still in the process of ramping back up, now is the perfect time to make some necessary changes to your corporate travel program.

What is purposeful travel?

Purposeful travel is a unique approach that encourages your travelers to make responsible decisions when it comes to booking travel. That may look like converting an in-person meeting to a virtual meeting or condensing a few different trips into one longer trip. Both scenarios would lead to reduced costs, lower emissions, and improved employee well-being. This concept of purposeful travel encompasses a number of considerations that affect every travel program including:

  • The need to travel: Is a trip necessary and does it deliver ROI, or could a virtual meeting achieve the same purpose?
  • Cost: Is the cost of the trip justified, and is there a way to drive savings?
  • Carbon: How does a trip fit within the organization’s sustainability goals, especially in an era where the environmental impact of business travel is top of mind for many?
  • Care: How does this trip affect your traveler’s well-being?

Empower travelers to make responsible choices

From an organizational perspective, a purposeful travel approach means looking at your travel policy to see how it supports and encourages responsible business travel. It means understanding and identifying opportunities to influence choice and change traveler behavior. For example, does your business really need a monthly in-person meeting, or could some of those be done virtually? And it means educating travelers so they know they have a voice and can make choices about their travel without being penalized. With the right organizational framework, each individual can feel empowered to make a difference by deciding how they travel for work, and whether they travel at all.

Stay or go? Making the decision

One of the key pieces underpinning the purposeful travel approach is what we call a “stay or go” framework. It’s essentially a decision guide that frames out key considerations so travelers know when a trip or in-person meeting is needed, and when a virtual meeting is a better alternative. The goal here is not to get rid of travel but instead to reduce it to more business-critical scenarios.

A great way to start is by categorizing the different types of meetings your organization has (such as reviews, strategy sessions, client sales meetings and so on). Then you need to break down the requirements that help make the decision for each use case, creating an easy pathway that empowers employees to make the best choice.

In addition, the stay or go framework can help communicate the best travel options to travelers. For example, for shorter trips in major cities, using rail rather than air might be a viable and purposeful option. Not only would it possibly save on cost, and definitely on carbon, but it would tick the care box too and improve traveler wellbeing by cutting down on the hassle of airport procedures. As a bonus, a rail trip would allow travelers to be more productive. That’s just one example of how the purposeful travel approach could work.

Purposeful travel in action

What does purposeful travel look like in practice? We’ve been working with clients to define and deliver their own purposeful travel approach for some time. Two notable successes are LinkedIn and Finastra.

Purposeful travel at LinkedIn

LinkedIn set an ambitious goal to reduce their scope 3 carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. With business travel as the second largest contributor to LinkedIn’s indirect emissions, they needed a strategy that would allow them to accurately measure emissions and mitigate traveler behavior to reach their goals. With the help of Advito, LinkedIn introduced an internal carbon price to influence traveler behavior towards making sustainability-driven decisions. After working with Advito to determine how to make the biggest impact, they decided to implement a $60 per transaction fee on each air ticket.

While the carbon price itself is a very progressive, forward-thinking policy, LinkedIn has also excelled in their engagement strategy with both business travelers and employees from across the organization to promote buy-in and change behavior. For example, LinkedIn’s sustainability-focused employee engagement program called “Go Green,” addresses all three pillars of the environmental, social and governance, (ESG) framework through a series of program designed around upskilling employees for the green economy. The program is so effective that one out of every eight LinkedIn employees is a member of Go Green. Learn more about the strategies LinkedIn used to build a sustainable business travel program.

Purposeful travel at Finastra

Finastra has set ambitious 2030 reduction targets, so it implemented a robust virtual collaboration plan. This was underpinned by a stay or go framework as part of a purposeful travel approach. The purposeful travel approach drove savings, increased productivity, reduced internal travel and ensured business continuity. This resulted in significant reductions in travel spend, and emissions, putting the company in a good position to meet its goal. Learn more about Finastra’s purposeful travel strategy.

Getting started with purposeful travel

Ready to implement purposeful travel strategy for your organization? Here are three steps to help you get started now!

1. Asses your business culture

Take a look at whether your current business culture supports switching to more purposeful travel – or whether it could. While travel is still in the process of ramping back up, we believe it’s a great time to reset expectations and cultures to a more sustainable approach. Along with that, consider whether business leaders really WANT to take this approach. If they do, then consider the key drivers. As we mentioned, these could be:

  • Cost: Reducing unnecessary travel to cut costs
  • Carbon: Sustainability and reducing carbon emissions
  • Care: Looking after traveler well-being
2. Make decisions easy

Next, figure out your stay or go framework. Ensure that you have robust virtual collaboration options in place, and that it’s clear when trips are justified or not. If a trip involves fixing machinery, clearly that has to be done in person. A quick check-in, perhaps not. The framework will help everyone consider how they approach travel. It’s also worth noting that some organizations are combining trips so they can do several meetings in the same general area on a single trip. While this makes trips a little longer, it’s also a more environmentally friendly approach than taking several short trips over several weeks.

3. Engagement and education

The final piece of the purposeful travel strategy is communicating the approach, so travelers get the information they need when and where they need it. As experts in employee engagement, we’ve found that it’s best to do this across multiple channels and formats: including policies, infographics, videos, webinars, training courses, mobile messaging and via the online booking tool. The point is to give travelers the confidence and information to make decisions in line with organizational goals.

The bottom line is that we can’t do business travel the way we’ve always done it, and we have a great opportunity to take a new direction. Purposeful travel is all about creating a holistic approach to traveling better that delivers on cost, carbon and care. Get in touch so we can help you customize and implement it for your organization.

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