By Paljor Lama, Senior Consultant, Traveler Engagement
After many unexpected challenges over the past couple of years, we now find ourselves confronted with a new travel landscape where much of the industry has evolved.
Short-term challenges, such as limited availability and travel disruptions, as well as long-term impacts, such as hybrid and virtual work arrangements, are showing us that business travel has and will continue to change.
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is the shift to prioritizing sustainability in corporate travel programs as part of larger companywide sustainability initiatives. Incorporating sustainability into your business travel policy is vital to minimizing carbon emissions, but today it’s also critical to expand the meaning of sustainability in your policy to include your travelers’ well-being.
Here are four things you may want to consider incorporating into your business travel policy today to power up your program and ensure sustainability is part of your business travel DNA.
1. Educate your travelers about sustainability and help them understand the truth behind today’s biggest sustainability trends to ensure your efforts make an impact.
There’s a lot of information about sustainability, but do your travelers know which decisions make the biggest impact? For example, many travelers don’t consider the environmental impact of the type of hotel they book. However, a resort can use up to 2X as much water per room per day than a regular hotel. That’s actually 8X more water than what an average European uses per day! Help them navigate the sea of information with actionable insights in your travel policy, enabling them to see past sustainability myths.
2. Highlight your organization’s sustainability efforts in the travel policy.
Whether travel is a big contributor to your organization’s carbon emissions or plays a small role, highlight how every decision travelers make impacts your sustainability goals. Educate travelers on how travel affects all facets of your organization’s success – environmental, financial, moral, etc. – and how the pieces of this puzzle come together. Understanding the bigger picture will motivate employees to act like owners and make optimal decisions.
3. Incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) best practices into your travel policy.
Reinforce an internal culture of belonging and safety by incorporating DE&I into your policy in the following ways:
- Allow additional provisions to travelers with special needs, such as pregnant travelers and travelers with protected characteristics.
- Consider a color-blind palette and providing the policy in audio format for the visually impaired.
- Encourage philanthropic support and long-term partnerships with non-profit organizations that advocate for racial justice and equity. This could be done through RFP processes/vendor selections.
- Increase minority representation among vendors, partners, and collaborators.
- Encourage travelers to give back during business trips (e.g., volunteering in travel destinations).
- Provide guidance around cultural acceptance for your top countries covering areas like religion, appearance, etiquette, LGBTQ+ destinations, security advice and more.
- Host DE&I travel forums, offering two-way communication about the company’s efforts and potential areas for improvement.
- Provide traveler-specific training sessions for groups such as LGBTQ+, solo travelers and female travelers.
4. Promote traveler satisfaction by highlighting the perks they receive.
Strongly promote supplier benefits your travelers receive for being part of the program. Consider allowing them to use loyalty points and membership benefits for personal/leisure travel. Promote incorporating leisure into a work trip. In 2022, half of all business travelers are likely to add leisure elements to their business trips.
Expanding the definition of sustainability in your travel policy to include not only your carbon initiatives, but also including employee satisfaction, retention and business longevity, will make your policy an integral tool in achieving your organization’s global goals. It’s important to ensure you are structuring your program to encompass all parts of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework beyond just thinking about emissions.