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Creating sustainable travel programs

  • covid-19
  • sustainability
  • travel management
A plane flying directly overhead set against a blue sky and seen through a gap in the canopy of green leaves above

If, like many travel managers, you’re rewriting your policies for a post-pandemic world, we recommend seizing this opportunity to create sustainable travel programs.

The global pandemic has caused chaos within the travel industry. And for travel managers lockdowns, new regulations and the need for greater risk management, have all called for a re-setting of their long-term travel plans.

The natural world fared somewhat better. 2020 saw a record decrease in emissions, with a total decline of 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide by year end. But while emissions fell by about 12% across Europe and the US, China saw a decrease of just 1.7% and, due to a considerable rebound with the easing of lockdown, its overall emissions for the year may actually have increased. And, researchers agree that 2021 will see us on an upwards trajectory once again.

Thus, as travel managers start to finalize their revised long-term plans, it’s more important than ever to consider the reduction of environmental impact as a top priority. Duty of care requirements, social pressure from employees and customers as well as the introduction of carbon taxes, sustainability is now a megatrend that can’t be ignored.

We must put sustainability at the heart of travel

Today, the world is slowly transitioning into the so-called “new normal”. And travel managers are urgently re-assessing their  organization’s policies. From global laws affecting movement between territories, to local laws surrounding hygiene, there are plenty of factors to consider.

We believe that travel will return to its pre-pandemic pace by around 2022/23 and research by McKinsey indicates that it will do so in phases. These will be defined by proximity, reason for travel and sector, with regional and domestic business travel returning first, along with business travel for in-person sales and client meetings.

However, this will be unfolding in a vastly different global travel environment that requires travel programs with a focus on communication, duty of care and risk management. They will also need to address new rules and regulations, different practices and customs from country to country, and the increased pressure from the media and the public about the way organizations should behave.

Smiling young businessman wearing headphones and looking at a computer screen with a takeaway coffee beside him on the desk planning sustainable travel programs
By creating sustainable travel programs, travel managers play a vital role in reducing their company’s carbon footprint.

What should you do?

As a travel manager, take this opportunity to begin to empower yourself and your organization to make greener travel choices. The winds of change are blowing in your favor – now is the time to capitalize.

It’s up to you to provide the information in a plan that enables your travelers to reduce your organization’s environmental impact – whether by using lower-carbon transport options, making greater strides towards carbon offsetting or, perhaps most importantly, choosing more ecological accommodation options.

Remember that the ultimate purpose of your travel plan is to encourage a behavioral change. It is therefore important to ask yourself such questions as:

  • Is a face-to-face meeting essential, or would a virtual conference be just as effective? (Indeed, would it be more effective, especially with regards to productivity and carbon output?)
  • Could your travelers stay as comfortably and conveniently within more carbon-positive spaces?
  • Is the fastest transport option necessarily the best for keeping carbon emissions low? If multiple people are traveling to the same place, should they each take a car, or could a train be just as effective?
  • How far is the hotel from where the meetings will be held? Walking distance is optimum but failing that, are public transport links easily accessible?
Commuters on a train with the focus on a dark-haired woman wearing headphones and looking out of the window. Using trains is a good way to create sustainable travel programs.
Choosing venues and lodgings that are easily accessible by public transport reduces the footprint of business travel, helping create sustainable travel programs.

At HRS, we’re committed to helping you make greener accommodation choices.

HRS is already helping travel managers create more sustainable travel programs, and now we aim to go one step further.

Our platform is being developed to make it easier for travel managers to gain oversight over the supply chain of their chosen hotels. And it allows them to build a greener hotel program that provides transparency on the emissions resulting from employee stays.

We also intend to help organizations reduce leakage, ensuring travel managers can maintain a clear oversight of their company’s carbon impact at all times.

It’s all part of our commitment to helping you create an altogether more sustainable travel program for your organization.

If you’re looking to put sustainability at the heart of your travel plan, learn more about the Green Stay Initiative. It provides transparency on hotels’ sustainability ratings with data accessible through our procurement platform.