Skift Take

Most environmental, social and governance (ESG) reports include a company's aspirations to reduce carbon emissions and combat global warming, but at an operational level it seems there's little regard for the impacts of travel.

Companies are making little effort to track and reduce the carbon emissions within their travel programs, according to two reports published this week.

Research from industry body Global Business Travel Association and campaign group Transport & Environment claim roughly one in 10 companies are taking sustainability seriously when it comes to traveling for business.

In a poll of almost 150 travel managers based in the U.S., just 8 percent said sustainability was a priority, according to the Global Business Travel Association. When quizzed on whether their company’s senior leadership ranked it as a priority, just 12 percent agreed.

GBTA survey priorities
How Travel Managers Will Succeed in 2023 report. Source: Global Business Travel Association/Spotnana

And only 5 percent of travel managers said that implementing sustainability-related practices and policies was an activity they spent the most time on.

“However, it is likely sustainability will become a larger priority as the industry (including its customers and partners) places higher priorities on sustainability and carbon reduction,” according to the soon-to-be published report called “How Travel Managers Will Succeed in 2023.”

With fears of a looming recession and ongoing travel complexities, the number one priority to emerge was “cost savings and managing the traveler’s experience,” added the report, which was co-published by corporate travel platform startup Spotnana.

The Campaign Perspective

Meanwhile, 85 percent of global companies are failing to set ambitious targets to reduce corporate travel emissions, according to campaigner Transport & Environment.

It found just 50 companies out of 322 have set targets to reduce business travel emissions, based on the second edition of its Travel Smart Campaign ranking.

Of the companies that have targets, only four committed to reduce them by 50 percent or more by 2025 or sooner. They were banking firms Swiss Re, Fidelity International and ABN Amro, as well as pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

The campaign also highlighted how AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte were making efforts to report non-carbon emissions related to business flying. This includes aspects such as nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and water, as well as particulate matter (soot), and they can help paint a picture of the full impact of flying in reporting.

It is estimated these emissions account for two thirds of total climate warming from flying, but few companies calculate them, Transport & Environment said.

“Corporates are turning a blind eye to the harms done by flying for work,” said Denise Auclair, corporate travel manager at Transport & Environment. “Most companies are taking little to no action on business flying, which renders any other travel targets meaningless in the context of tackling climate change.”

The ranking, published on Wednesday, looked at 322 U.S., European and Indian companies according to 10 indicators.

The Travel Smart Campaign calls upon companies to set ambitious targets to reduce corporate travel emissions, switch from air to rail travel where possible, and use video conferencing as a substitute to long-haul flying.

Helping Out

The UK’s Institute of Travel Management last week launched a taskforce to help travel buyers tackle the challenges of delivering on their organization’s sustainability targets, giving them practical guidance for shaping a responsible travel program.

It consists of 16 buyer and supplier members, who will meet regularly to assess the current travel program environment and supplier progress.

“… The topic of sustainable travel practice is so vast that there’s a real risk that buyers become overwhelmed and don’t know where to start,” said Kerry Douglas, head of program at the institute.

Its most recent Buyer Priorities Survey also found that the biggest challenge facing buyers when it comes to managing travel in 2023 was “influencing sustainable practice.”

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Tags: business travel, climate change, corporate travel, gbta, spotnana, sustainability

Photo credit: Just 8 percent of travel managers based in the U.S. said sustainability was a priority. Avel Chuklanov / Unsplash

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