Climate change awareness is impacting the sector, shaping attitudes, travel decisions and supplier management. Riskline's Emanuele Scansani outlines how travel managers should respond
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” Gustav Flaubert perfectly sums up the heightened sense of perspective many people now have towards the planet. The post-pandemic era has brought with it a renewed sense of appreciation and responsibility towards the world we live in, along with the urgent requirement to address sustainability issues.
These issues remain high on the agenda following the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 26, bringing together some of the most influential and powerful leaders and activists from around the world to discuss climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance among other topics.
As business travel gradually returns, there is a recognition within the industry that sustainability will be crucial in coming years. A report conducted by the GBTA found that companies say that they want to make their travel programmes more sustainable post-pandemic. It’s clear that environmental awareness is impacting the sector, shaping individual attitudes, planning processes and supplier management.
Here are some of the ways travel managers can factor in environmental considerations when planning business travel:
Climate catastrophe continues
This year we witnessed record-high temperatures across multiple countries, such as Australia and the US, and these extreme weather events look set to continue. Due to climate change, the effects of natural disasters, such as tropical and winter storms, wildfires and monsoon rainfall will only increase in severity.
Considering the pace and increased impact of climate change-driven extreme weather events, travel managers should gain a deeper familiarity of expected weather patterns at their travel destinations.
Travel risk intelligence will provide the latest, verified information and also detail the resulting impact at the destination.
Travel managers should ensure the travellers themselves understand how to respond promptly and practically to extreme weather events and ensure appropriate mitigation measures are in place, such as insurance.
Rise of purposeful travel
The solution for business travel managers looking to balance the needs of their business with reducing carbon footprint is to travel more purposefully. This means opting for environmentally-friendly options when planning travel, whether that’s choosing most efficient travel route, taking alternative modes of transport, or considering the community impact. More efficient travel leads to a less harmful environmental impact. Products such as the one provided by our partner TROOP, enable travel managers to choose the most eco-friendly meetings and events planning strategy, thereby minimising their carbon footprint.
Suppliers are making bold, positive moves in this area. The global aviation industry including IATA and the Airports Council International (ACI) recently announced their pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement goal for climate change. The aim of the initiative is to avoid global warming exceeding an increase of 1.5°C.
As large consumers of energy (through lighting, heating and cooling, catering and washing facilities) and producers of waste, hotel groups have made large strides in working on green accommodation solutions. These include the use of renewable energy and responsible consumption policies: energy-efficient lighting, working with local suppliers, offering water-wise F&B options and using recycled and recyclable materials.
Building sustainability into ROI
What travel managers are requesting from their suppliers has changed – they now need detailed sustainability information so they can then accurately report their company’s carbon footprint. This means suppliers need to put their green credentials front and centre of any procurement process and clearly communicate their environmental aims and targets.
Travel managers also now need to consider the ROI behind any business trip. Over the past year we’ve seen how digital alternatives – video conferencing, online and hybrid events – can replace face-to-face meetings to a certain extent. Businesses are now more likely to want to fully establish the need for business travel to determine the reasons and objectives for meeting in person. Many are also under increasing pressure from investors to report on environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics, and from individual employees themselves wanting to use more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.
As business travel returns, we have the opportunity to be more intentional about how and why we travel. The environmental factors that travel managers need to consider will change as the climate crisis develops and the world responds accordingly.
Emanuele Scansani is Director of Partnerships and Strategic Relations at Riskline