By Amelie Losanes, Senior Consultant, Sustainable Collaboration
One of the biggest challenges when integrating sustainability into a travel program is continuing to provide value and comfort to your travelers.
Employee wellness is a key element for bringing the social component in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework into your business travel program. With the right strategy in place, sustainability and wellness can go hand in hand to make your travel program attractive for your employees while considering their impact on the environment.
Travel with purpose
To limit our impact on the environment and its catastrophic consequences on a global scale, we must reduce our emissions drastically. When it comes to travel, one of the easiest ways to reduce our emissions is to simply travel less. This does not mean that all future trips should be canceled, but rather that each trip should be assessed, ensuring travelers only go on the road when it is truly necessary. We recommend introducing a ‘stay or go’ framework to empower travelers to make confident decisions that align with your company goals. While reducing travel can greatly influence your company’s environmental impact, a reduction in business travel also often leads to higher employee satisfaction.
Although traveling less should be a key part of your sustainability strategy, the travel experience should not take the back seat for trips that are necessary. That’s where wellness comes into the picture. To be productive, travelers deserve a good level of comfort while they are on the road. By lowering the number of trips annually and working closely with your suppliers, you will be able to tap into your budget to provide your travelers with a higher quality of comfort on the road while meeting your sustainability goals.
- Choosing convenient and comfortable hotels: When selecting hotels, focus on a few key elements: proximity to the office or location where business will be conducted, level of comfort and amenities, and sustainability initiatives or eco-certifications. This will allow you to get a strong portfolio of hotels that your travelers can use and feel good about. It’s important to note that the carbon footprint of a hotel night is a fraction of that of a flight. By offering eco-certified hotels to your employees, you provide them with other guarantees: the hotel commitment to managing their water, energy and waste better along with actively working on being a key player in protecting the local economy and biodiversity. Your travelers can feel good about their environmental impact while being comfortable and getting a good night’s sleep.
- Taking the train over plane: From a sustainability standpoint, taking a train is on average 20x more carbon efficient than taking a flight. From a wellness standpoint, the train can actually be a better choice for travelers too! By taking the train travelers have much more time to rest or do some work as they do not need to drive to the airport (train stations are generally much more central), go through security, boarding, taxi and landing. Prioritizing the train is a good option in many markets such as Europe, China, Japan, the US East Coast and the US Pacific Northwest. Guiding your travelers to book trains on these key routes will provide both comfort and an easy ride to their destinations.
- Choosing business class for long-haul flights: even though the CO2 emissions for an international business flight are on average 3 times higher than in economy, traveler satisfaction and well-being are important for your program adoption and for successful meetings. When crossing several time-zones, it’s imperative that your travelers get good rest and arrive refreshed at their destination. Also, keep in mind that it’s better to fly once in business than 3 times in economy!
- Choosing the right car size: remind travelers that car size matters. The bigger the car, the more energy it consumes (be it an electric, hybrid or petrol/gas vehicle). Guide your travelers to book a car size that makes sense for their trips without compromising their wellness and security. We recommend booking lower- to medium-sized vehicles for party of one or two. SUVs or larger cars should only be booked or accepted as an upgrade when many travelers share a ride.
- Eating healthy on the road: Help your travelers eat healthy while on the road by providing them with destination guides or local restaurant options that serve some vegetarian dishes. Eating less meat is both good for the environment and for their health. As a matter of fact, if everyone on Earth were to reduce their meat consumption by half, the CO2 saving would be equivalent to what the airline industry emits in an entire year!
Developing a strategy to balance sustainable practices with traveler wellness is not a one size fits all approach. Analyzing your employees’ booking and travel patterns will give you a window into potential pain points that your program needs to address. Some questions to ask yourself are: When and how often are your employees traveling? Do they cross any time zones on the given trip? Are they using direct flights or connected ones? How much time are they on the road vs. at home in a month’s time?
Jetlag can be quite disruptive to your traveler’s health and productivity, as sleep patterns shift to a new region. Some travelers also report traveling for work outside of business hours or during the weekend. All these factors are extremely important to notice as this can lead to frustration and potential burnout, especially for road warriors. By drilling down your data, you can discover recurring patterns and find ways to make wellness a priority for your travelers. Some solutions to tackle these behaviors could be to encourage travelers to combine meetings to reduce overall number of trips, verify whether a local colleague can attend a meeting, check if the destination can be adjusted so less travel is required, etc. Another way to bring positive change could be to shift from a cost policy to a traveler-focused policy where comfort and quality comes first.
All these insights will help you put your travelers first and make them feel seen and valued.
As you can see, together sustainability and wellness are integral parts of your travel program, ensuring travelers are only on the road when it’s necessary and that they do so in full comfort. The final step in adopting a sustainability and wellness focused approach to your travel program is communicating these important changes positively within your organization.