Skift Take

Organizations don’t seem prepared to incur additional costs to achieve more sustainable travel outcomes — but that’s not what most are saying publicly.

Companies are more concerned about their employees’ stomachs than saving the planet, based on the results of a new industry survey.

Only 6 percent of corporate travel managers say their company currently allows employees to spend more on sustainable travel options.

But according to the poll from Uber for Business and the Global Business Travel Association, almost one-third of respondents (29 percent) said their company had raised its spending limit or per diem for meals.

It’s the first time the two have worked together on the new ground transportation report, published Wednesday, which aims to shed light on “pressing concerns and considerations” from travel managers at some of the world’s largest companies.

Mixed Messages

Although 26 percent of the 200 travel managers polled in the U.S. in Canada in April said their employers were considering allowing employees to spend more on greener travel, the reluctance seems to contradict most corporate messaging that sustainability is a priority.

An association survey from April revealed 9 in 10 respondents collectively said sustainability was a priority for their company, but the biggest barrier was higher costs. Company travel managers are also struggling to “decrypt” increasing amounts of carbon emissions data that suppliers and agencies are passing to them.

An overwhelming majority of travel managers (84 percent) said that sustainability was at least somewhat important in the design of their company’s travel program, with 50 percent saying it is very or extremely important.

Meanwhile, as to be expected, most travel managers said their programs were now more focused on traveler safety and wellbeing (75 percent), and sustainability and social responsibility (55 percent) compared to two years ago.

Uber for Business told Skift it was taking steps to make it easier for travel managers to nudge their organizations into more sustainable modes of transport, including price-matching Uber Green trips against UberX. Uber Green uses hybrid or electric vehicles, and is available in 100 major urban markets across three continents.

It also recently launched Uber Green for Business in France.

“We’re already seeing incredible traction in that market,” said Susan Anderson, global head of Uber for Business, noting that one client, French law firm Bredin Prat had “gamified” it by starting a quarterly challenge to reward employees who use Uber Green the most to get around. Meanwhile, the Uber for Business platform is currently in the early stages of allowing businesses to track carbon emissions, she added.

Anderson also played down reports that inflation and higher gas prices were prompting Uber drivers to quit and find more profitable jobs, leading to longer wait times and more cancellations.

“While it’s true that demand grows faster than supply in some markets, we’re continuing to make strong progress adding drivers to our platform to serve that skyrocketing demand. In fact, we’ve added more than a million drivers to Uber just in the last year,” she said.

The poll was carried out as part of the “The Corporate Travel Comeback: The Evolution of Ground Transportation and Other Trending Business Travel Topics” report during April 18-27, 2022, and was conducted among association members and industry stakeholders who are involved with managing or procuring travel on behalf of their company.

Tags: business travel, climate change, corporate travel, gbta, ride-sharing, sustainability, sustainable tourism, travel management, uber

Photo credit: Most travel managers say sustainability is important in the design of their company’s travel program.