Skift Take

Multiple sources of data seem to be overwhelming some companies. But it's probably a nice problem to have as organizations count down to net zero.

Company travel managers are struggling to “decrypt” increasing amounts of carbon emissions data that suppliers and agencies are passing to them.

The depth and breadth of data available continues to expand. Airlines and hotels are under pressure to provide it, to help companies take stock of their emissions, as part of pledges to become carbon neutral, or even carbon negative, by certain deadlines. The data comes in useful.

The travel industry says it is also striving to become more transparent itself over the harmful carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases it produces.

Yet one company’s useful data can become a deluge for corporate travel managers trying to decipher.

“There is a lot of information, perhaps too much information,” said Sabah Kahoul, a former Microsoft travel manager who now advises companies on travel procurement. “The agency will have its reporting, and the suppliers. It’s not very well structured and often not always available to the final user, the traveler.”

Kahoul, who was speaking at a French Association of Travel Management webinar this week, said travel managers had a responsibility to take the lead and help organize or structure the data.

CWT recently decided to display carbon emission data at the point of booking, a move that has been broadly welcomed as a tactic that can help drive bookings towards greener options. But as the availability of data becomes more widespread, including Google and Skyscanner’s latest adoption of Travalyst data, there’s a risk some of it may get lost in translation.

Kahoul cited one client who received carbon data from one supplier, who said that while they found it interesting to see how it was calculated, their own company didn’t calculate emissions in the same way.

“If the data isn’t credible or can’t be assimilated, it’s not useful,” added Kahoul, who is also vice president of the Association of Swiss Travel Management.

International sports retailer Decathlon is aiming to reduce its carbon footprint, and its travel manager said he was working with its agency, Egencia, on this. “We can see airline carbon emissions at point of booking, which is good, and we can make comparisons. But I’ve asked our corporate travel agency to make it more visible, bolder, or with colors, because it’s drowning in other information,” said Philippe Vanasch during the webinar.

However, he also ensures he gets access to the basic travel information. “What interests me is the raw data, the kilometers traveled, the class. Then we’ve got the elements that can be billed,” he said, meaning offsetting could be carried out by Decathlon on top of any supplier offsetting. Hotel emissions remained difficult to gauge, he added, due to the fact there are differing methods of energy consumption.

“We also use the travel policy; if we can switch people from plane to train, we have a big impact,” he said.

Corporate travel agencies, in the meantime, will likely continue to step up efforts to display carbon data, and simplify it. One startup agency, Coco+, has placed sustainability at its core and recently signed a three-year partnership with data company Travelogix to help it offer clearer reporting to its corporate customers. “Our plan from the start was to be a technology first travel provider, sourcing the best-in-class partners to help us bring our vision to life,” said Phil Brown, co-founder and chief operating officer. “We believe data can tell a story. It encourages engagement and can ultimately help influence decision-making for the future.”

Tags: business travel, carbon emissions, carbon offsets, climate change, concur, corporate travel, cwt, google, microsoft, sustainable tourism, travalyst, travel management

Photo credit: The travel industry is striving itself to be more transparent over the harmful carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases it produces. Danist Soh / Unsplash