Sustainable travel recognises the importance of tackling climate change by preserving the environment, supporting local communities and minimising negative impacts on the world's natural resources and local cultures.
The extent of the global climate crisis means that, for any business traveler, it's important to consider the impact your travel has on the planet and to look for ways to adopt sustainable practices, travel sustainably and lessen that impact wherever possible.
By choosing eco-friendly travel options, you can cut emissions, reduce your carbon footprint, support local economies and ensure that the local communities you visit will remain vibrant and beautiful for generations to come.
In this blog, we'll explore what sustainable travel is, why it matters, and what you can do to make your own travels more sustainable and less likely to have a negative impact on your destinations and on the planet as a whole.
Whether you're an experienced business traveller or just starting out, we’ll provide you with practical tips and inspirational ideas for actions which can help to deliver sustainable travel and make you and your business more environmentally friendly.
Understanding Sustainable Travel
For the vast majority of people, there is no longer any doubt about the extent of the climate change crisis which the world is now facing. Awareness of the environmental impact which the activities of human beings are having on our world is widespread.
What isn’t so clear for many – both individuals and businesses across the world – is what exactly they can do to mitigate that impact and, crucially, what action they can take which will not only reduce carbon emissions but will actually help to deliver environmental benefits.
What isn’t in doubt for all of us involved in the travel industry – whether that’s as travel providers or as business travelers – is that our sector faces some particular challenges when it comes to sustainable tourism.
Few would argue with the view that airlines, airports, hotels, car rental firms and other businesses operating around the world as part of the travel and tourism industry have historically had a particularly severe impact on the planet.
But the positive aspect of this is that all of us in the travel industry have a real opportunity to adopt sustainable practices and implement actions which will genuinely help to improve environmental sustainability when travelling, both in the short and long term.
Why Does Sustainable Travel Matter?
The definition of sustainable travel, as outlined by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism is “travel that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”
If there had been doubt about its significance, the pandemic illustrated in the most graphic way possible, just how crucial travel is to the world of business.
Business travel is hugely important to global trade and our ability to connect but the downside is that, for example, air travel is estimated to account for somewhere between 2-3% of all global carbon emissions.
As the industry continues its recovery from the COVID crisis, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted that the number of air passengers will exceed pre-Covid-19 levels in 2024.
The hotel industry, meanwhile, accounts for around 1% of global carbon emissions and, in 2020 alone, cars produced approximately three billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.
And moving away from the global travel industry to look at how the activities of human beings in general and the use of products such as single use plastics affect the planet, figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that plastics account for 3.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions with plastic waste generation more than doubling from 2000 to 2019 to 353 million tonnes worldwide.
Those figures provide a stark illustration of the scale of the environmental impacts which travel and its related industries can have in terms of carbon emissions and the potential consequences for the natural world, local businesses and local communities.
They also make clear the importance of travel businesses rising to the challenge by adopting sustainable tourism practices and delivering responsible travel.
So what action can your organisation take to make a difference, enhance sustainable travel and help improve our natural environment when out on business?
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Our customer base is very diverse with companies drawn from a wide variety of sectors ranging from small businesses to major corporates.
Experience has shown us that, when it comes to sustainable travel, there is no single action or one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every company.
That's why, in working to help you cut your carbon footprint and improve environmental sustainability, our starting point is to recognise that every customer has individual business objectives when it comes to sustainable practices and faces different challenges in managing their business travel.
Our team of travel experts help our customers by using data to quantify their carbon footprint, helping them make informed sustainable buying choices.
Our 'green list' ranks your potential travel partners according to measurable commitments made by our airline, hotel, car hire and airport suppliers. That data comes at no additional cost to you but is a key element of our commitment to be a responsible enabler of sustainable travel.
Our data analysis can recommend improvements including supplier carbon offsetting programmes that require no cash investment with C02 reporting part of the standard suite of management information we supply you with.
By quantifying the carbon emissions generated by your business travel we can help to determine the level of investment, policy and behavioural changes required.
A typical example is the support we have given customers to participate in sustainable aviation fuel non-cash investments and recommended bio fares where available.
Integrate Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Practices into Your Business Model
Increased awareness of the importance of sustainability to all our futures means that consumers and stakeholders in general are now much more likely to base their decisions and choices on a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials.
Customers want brands which have a track record of ethical behaviour which means that it is increasingly important to ensure that ESG practices are integrated into your business.
Our track record in the business travel industry means we recognise that the vast majority of our customers have to travel as part of their contribution to powering the world’s supply chains.
We are committed to enabling essential travel in the most sustainable and responsible way for our customers.
Our dedicated travel experts assist our customers in developing a sustainable travel programme that promotes genuine, long-term sustainable development.
Whether your goal in achieving your business goals is to be carbon neutral, net zero or partially offset, we're here to support and enable your sustainable travel ambitions.
How Can Your Employees Contribute To Sustainable Travel?
As we’ve seen, it’s relatively simple to define what sustainable travel means – if we’re going to travel sustainably, it’s essential that we recognise the impact our journey might have on the environment, the local community and the economy of the location we’re visiting.
And, it’s equally vital that we adopt the sort of practices which will help to reduce that impact.
The good news is that there is a wide range of actions you and your employees can take to contribute to sustainable travel.
Alternative Modes of Transportation
For many of our customers, air travel is an unavoidable part of their business trip. However, where there is an option to use public transport such as local trains and buses, this can have a positive impact and make a significant contribution to reducing pollution and easing congestion.
The concept of ‘slow travel’ whereby the traveller takes time to really make a connection with local people and their cultural heritage by taking a more leisurely approach to moving around a location, particularly via public transport, is also growing in popularity.
Choose Eco Friendly Accommodation
Business travellers are increasingly being offered the option of staying in eco-friendly accommodation.
Environmentally responsible hotels adopt policies which benefit their local community in a variety of ways such as adopting sustainable best practices to reduce energy and water consumption, using environmentally friendly products, avoiding single use plastic and minimising food waste.
By buying from and supporting local businesses, eco-friendly hotels can help to reduce transport impact and packaging while also contributing to the creation of new jobs and boosting the local economy.
Minimise Waste When Travelling for Business
Avoiding single use plastic products – one of the biggest pollutants of the world’s oceans – is a quick win when it comes to minimising waste.
Getting into the habit of changing to reusable coffee cups or containers for products such as shampoo or moisturiser can cut plastic waste and avoid the need for local communities to add to their recycling burden.
And you can also support local companies by purchasing such products when you reach your destination which again helps to cut down on packaging and transportation and boost the local economy.
Lighten Your Load When Flying
We’ve all been guilty of overpacking and taking items with us just in case…
With airlines increasingly cracking down on excess baggage or charging more for bigger bags, it makes sense both for the traveller and, crucially, for the environment to cut back on the amount of luggage you take with you on your business trip.
Putting the brakes on fast fashion would be another major positive in terms of its environmental impact – according to a 2019 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined.
Cutting back on clothes you don’t need for your business trip is another small step on the road to sustainable travel.
Arrange Multiple Meetings
For most business people, time is one of their most precious resources.
It makes sense, therefore, that, for the business traveller with an eye on rising costs and a desire for increased efficiency, any business trip should be used to the maximum advantage.
One simple way to do both – while also cutting down on additional travel – is to schedule multiple meetings in the course of a single trip.
By ensuring the best use of their employees’ time during their business travel, organisations can not only keep an eye on the bottom line but, at the same time, improve their sustainable travel credentials.
As we’ve shown, the travel industry as a whole is showing genuine commitment to improving its environmental sustainability.
In our next blog, we’ll take a more in-depth look at some of the exciting new initiatives currently being developed by airlines across the globe to help business travellers mitigate their environmental impact and deliver a further boost for sustainable tourism.
If you are looking for a travel partner that has a real focus on sustainability, contact our sales team today to find out how we can help enhance your business travel experience.