By Shelley Fletcher-Bryant, Senior Director, Client Relationship Management
When thinking about the future of business travel, sustainability is always on the agenda, but it can be hard to know where to focus your efforts to make the biggest impact.
To uncover today’s top strategies, we asked Shelley Fletcher-Bryant, Senior Director, Client Relationship Management, for her insights.
How are clients changing their approach as they move towards more sustainability-focused business travel programs?
In recent years, we’ve seen clients making a strong push to partner with their suppliers, and airline and hotel partners to develop sustainability initiatives. In air, that means prioritizing relationships with those suppliers who are investing in new aircraft for their fleet. For hotels, it’s about identifying hotels signing up for credible eco certificates or eco labels. In fact, there are more than 200 eco certifications for hotels, ranging from self-certification options to those that are far more rigorous.
During sourcing, we encourage clients to reward those air and hotel suppliers who invest in more sustainable practices. For example, air sourcing is typically concentrated on negotiating price and market share. When negotiating on our clients’ behalf, we want to ensure that the fair market share takes into account aircraft performance from a sustainability standpoint. This is about ensuring airlines that invest in more sustainable or efficient aircraft are rewarded by having a bigger piece of the program.
Not every carrier has an efficient fleet. How can travel managers still work on sustainable travel?
Sometimes, carriers on key routes that clients need don’t have efficient fleets. In those cases, we recommend alternatives such as switching from air to rail when possible, or even holding virtual meetings. Aside from using sustainable suppliers, another part of our approach to sustainability in business travel is knowing when to travel less. Implementing a stay-or-go framework is a powerful way to reduce non-essential travel.
What are the key challenges when addressing Scope 3 emissions?
Scope 3 emissions – indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain – are a large challenge to tackle for most organizations. Business travel-related emissions fall under scope 3. There are two critical aspects to address when thinking about how to reduce your travel program’s impact: data and change management.
First, it’s important to drill down and get accurate data on your emissions. Then, you can use that information to define your sustainability strategy going forward. However, once you have a strategy in place, the next challenge is getting your travelers, suppliers and stakeholders to make these changes.
There will be a continual need for change management to engage stakeholders, suppliers, employees and travelers to help educate people on the choices they make, show the benefits and drive behavioral change. Travel managers will need engagement strategies to help move the needle and nudge individuals towards more sustainable choices and more sustainable practices.
What’s happening with carbon pricing?
We strongly encourage every travel program to apply an accurate carbon price. A carbon price is a fee or a tax levied on activities that result in emissions, like business travel. This strategy attributes a monetary value to the climate risks of travel. The higher the carbon price the more successful it will be at mitigating actives that result in pollution.
Looking ahead, we hope to begin setting variable business travel carbon prices per metric ton of carbon, but until that capability is available, implementing a flat carbon price per flight can make a meaningful impact and help travelers really think about the decisions they are making.
How does an internal carbon price incentivize sustainable travel?
Applying a carbon price is helpful in empowering travelers to make sustainable decisions. Historically, most travel policies have been driven by choosing the lowest cost option. Now, it’s become important to look at lower carbon options, but these may be more expensive, so we need to balance that cost, and see what it means to individual clients. When we apply that cost (say, $50 per tonne), it makes decision-making easier. It also supports change management because people can see the real value and the real impact of those choices that they’re making. Innovative education and awareness communication campaigns can support this, along with targeted and dynamic messaging within the online booking tool. That’s the best way to drive behavioral change.
Whether you are just getting started building your sustainable business travel strategy or want help applying new strategies to your current program, our team can help! Contact us here.