The Four Pillars of a Sustainable Business Travel Program

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

By Julien Etchanchu, Managing Consultant

It’s no surprise that today’s travel managers are focused on creating sustainable business travel programs and there are several reasons why this is important:

  • We are part of the problem. The travel industry is responsible for 2.5% of CO2 emissions worldwide, and this is likely to increase to as much as 20% by 2050 while other sectors will have reduced their own emissions.
  • Social responsibility is good for business. The public, including your own business travelers, are concerned about whether your company values combating climate change. Companies are expected to be transparent about their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) goals and celebrate their accomplishments in this space.
  • The clock is ticking. Scientists are issuing increasingly dire warnings about the fate of the world if we fail to meet global emissions reduction targets over the next 10-20 years. Therefore, it’s become imperative for travel managers to do their part and reduce the contribution made by their own business travel programs.

So, what’s stopping us? One reason that we’ve found is that travel managers are getting inaccurate emissions reporting across all travel categories. Inaccurate carbon emissions calculations can lead to poor traveler decisions and missed opportunities to achieve organizational sustainability goals. It’s essential to have an accurate view of your CO2 footprint and understand the true environmental impact of your travel program before you can set realistic targets.

What does a sustainable business travel program look like?

We recommend focusing on the following four pillars:

  1. Travel less: Reduce non-essential travel and replace it with robust virtual communication options. You can use a “stay or go” framework to help travelers decide which trips are worth it, and which are not. Integrate sustainability into your travel policy to get started from the ground up.
  2. Travel better: Where possible, shift to more eco-friendly travel alternatives, like taking intercity trains in some countries. When flying is the only option, consider the aircraft type, the fuel used, the routes taken and more so you can optimize air travel. And explore eco-friendly alternatives for car hire and transport once travelers are on the ground.
  3. Use sustainable suppliers: Considering sustainability outside of your air suppliers alone is key. Check the eco-certifications and amenities for the hotels where your travelers stay. Saunas, spas, and restaurants can increase hotels’ CO2 emissions, and it’s worth paying attention to their housekeeping practices, too.
  4. Offset CO2 emissions the right way: Understand carbon reporting and ensure that you’re offsetting with reliable energy projects rather than unreliable reforestation schemes disguised as the real deal. Offsetting should be a part of your holistic strategy but can’t be a replacement for reducing overall travel.

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Get more accurate CO2 emissions reporting

To achieve a truly sustainable travel program, accurate emissions reporting is a must. While measurement agencies do have standards in place, these don’t always consider the local factors that affect carbon emissions in different settings.

That’s why Advito has developed the ISO-certified GATE4 reporting methodology. GATE4 stands for Global Analytics for Travel Emissions, with the 4 representing the four areas of business travel (air, hotel, rail, and car). This proprietary carbon emissions calculation is ISO 14064 and ISO 14065 certified. It takes into account the impact of electricity mix, passenger to freight ratios, hotel eco-labels, amenities, rail operators’ individual sustainability initiatives, and more into the calculations.

GATE4 helps travel managers:

  • Track organizational goals & measure improvement opportunities
  • Leverage emissions data in the supplier selection and negotiation process
  • Create engaging communications to inform and influence traveler decisions

 GATE4 in action

Microsoft’s goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. With the help of GATE4, the company has been able to discover multiple opportunities to reduce emissions by switching aircraft types on top routes or by shifting to rail and identify their most sustainable airline suppliers. Microsoft has also developed a traveler engagement strategy to guide carbon-efficient decision-making. Read the full success story here.

Ready to take the next step in achieving your sustainability goals? Contact Advito to learn more about GATE4 and how we can make it happen.

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