Business travel expert reveals how to navigate the cost of going green

ByTravelling For Business

May 28, 2024
Incorporating sustainability into business travel programs has shifted from a luxury to a critical requirement in a world increasingly aware of environmental issues.Incorporating sustainability into business travel programs has shifted from a luxury to a critical requirement in a world increasingly aware of environmental issues.

Incorporating sustainability into business travel programs has shifted from a luxury to a critical requirement in a world increasingly aware of environmental issues.

But according to the findings of a recent report, the higher costs associated with sustainable travel options are a major obstacle to the widespread adoption of environmentally friendly business travel practices.

As Laura Busby, Commercial Director, Good Travel Management explains that although the initial cost of adopting sustainable measures might seem steep, organisations need to consider the long-term importance of sustainable travel to remain relevant in a competitive economic landscape.

Research indicates that 53 percent of employees would prefer to work for companies that actively support sustainable travel initiatives over those that do not.

This article will outline the most effective strategy to help future leaders manage their eco-friendly travel expenses and build sustainable business travel programmes.

Define the reasons for travel and frequency

The first step is to outline the objectives of business travel. Employees often need to travel for various business purposes, such as attending in-person client meetings, conferences or training sessions.

Nevertheless, excess corporate travel is likely to conflict with sustainability goals. Therefore, it’s crucial businesses pinpoint what constitutes essential travel.

Implementing a system to capture and categorise reason codes for each business trip will help identify trends where travel is unnecessary in favour of virtual alternatives.

In taking a more strategic, purposeful approach to business travel, organisations can reduce unnecessary expenses, minimise their environmental footprint and ensure face-to-face interactions are reserved for situations where they add the most value.

Create a clear travel expense policy

Effective management of business travel expenses also significantly enhances a company’s sustainability profile. However, a key challenge is that one-fifth of expense managers fail to ensure employees adhere to their company’s travel expense policy.

Ensuring that expense policies are communicated clearly and are readily accessible via the company intranet or during dedicated meetings can improve compliance and cost efficiency.

Implementing and utilising robust travel expense management software provides real-time dashboards to monitor expenditures across various departments and projects. This helps businesses analyse trends, set realistic budgets based on past spending, and identify peak seasons which typically incur higher costs.

Organising expenses into foundational categories such as air travel, accommodations, and meals not only streamlines the prediction and management of budgets but also facilitates a more sustainable approach by identifying areas where environmentally friendly options can be integrated.

Encouraging the use of vetted travel vendors and integrating both online and offline booking options ensures safer, more cost-effective travel arrangements. These practices not only optimise expense management but support the implementation of greener travel policies, reducing a company’s carbon footprint and promoting a sustainable business model.

Make policies greener and more sustainable

Policies also serve as a crucial tool to educate travellers about effective methods for reducing the environmental impact of their journeys. Often simply equipping travellers with the necessary tools, information, and expertise allows them to foster more sustainable travel practices. Implementing policies is not costly, yet provides practical, cost-effective strategies for minimising the carbon footprint associated with business travel.

To lower carbon emissions these policies should advocate for choosing trains or electric vehicles over planes, favouring fewer but longer trips and selecting accommodations with genuine sustainability accreditations. Examples to look out for when hospitality and other service providers include the Green Key certificate, the ISO 14001 accreditation and the EU Ecolabel.

To make this an efficient process, travel management companies (TMCs) can help as they have the experience and expertise to build comprehensive and personalised travel policies tailored to empower travellers to make more sustainable choices at the point of booking while minimising costs where possible.

Leverage technology and sustainability-driven partnerships

Implementing the right tools and technology can help quantify the environmental impact of business travel and can assist in evaluating the ROI from an environmental and cost perspective.

Online platforms streamline this process and offer innovative solutions for real-time carbon footprint data tracking and carbon emission projections of future business travel programmes. These platforms also keep a carbon record of all past business travel, helpful in sustainability and CO2 reporting.

By partnering with experts in curating ‘green travel’, businesses can introduce accurate approval mechanisms dependent on CO2 emissions for planned trips and navigate additional costs effectively, not only achieving sustainable ROI but also staying ahead in the race for top talent and a greener, more responsible future.

Partnering with hotels, service providers and airlines that prioritise sustainability practices is an effective way to ensure that business travel is promoting greener travel options. Plus, nurturing these relationships can open doors for better pricing and cost-saving options.

Furthermore, negotiating corporate rates with preferred service providers and utilising reward schemes are effective strategies for reducing costs while promoting sustainability.