Dr. Sascha Meskendahl, Blacklane Chief Revenue Officer, outlines the questions corporate travel buyers should be asking their suppliers if they really want to make a difference
Corporate travel is setting an example for emission reduction and carbon offsetting at scale. During the pandemic, many organisations adopted new green measures, such as swapping short-haul flights for trains and prioritising sustainable suppliers.
Travel providers made new commitments, too. For example, Blacklane pledged carbon neutrality over our 10-year history, multiple airlines announced sustainable aviation fuel investments and hotel chains released plans to reduce carbon emissions and food waste.
However, this is not enough. We cannot solve climate change until we alleviate personal hardships affecting billions of people.
Those with secure futures are able to care most about the planet’s destiny. Those with uncertain and bleak futures, on the other hand, must focus on immediate needs. This holds true for individuals and societies.
“We cannot solve climate change until we alleviate personal hardships affecting billions of people”
Wealthy economies have the resources to reduce pollution and invest in decarbonisation. The Environmental Performance Index correlates gross domestic product per capita and a healthier environment. It quantifies policies across several factors, including biodiversity, air quality and wastewater treatment.
Communities, therefore, need new opportunities to build wealth and fund more education – the key to increasing GDP per capita and household wealth. With more money, nations will gain new resources to develop and implement green technologies.
Therefore, we must address underlying economic and social issues with a three-pronged approach to sustainability: environmental, social and economic.
Travel suppliers have a unique role to address holistic sustainability. They directly impact the communities where they operate. They require local workers, rely on local infrastructure, and use local natural resources. Suppliers also facilitate travelling employees’ essential work.
Travel buyers, therefore, can push suppliers to extend their sustainability initiatives by asking broader questions in RFPs:
- How do you ensure that employees are fairly paid? Does your service use individual contractors? This will reveal workforce models and companies that offer shares to their teams.
- How do you support local business owners? For example, hotels may buy produce from local farmers rather than overseas produce companies.
- How do you contribute to a higher standard of living in the areas you operate? One measure may be suppliers comparing their local salaries with the area average.
- How do you strengthen local staff? Companies can highlight management training and promotions and how they support marginalised groups.
- How do you support locals in need? Suppliers may organise service projects or give time off for staff to support charities of their choice.
- What diversity, equity and inclusion training do you offer?
- What are your carbon offset and reduction plans? Suppliers should state if projects use the trusted Verified Carbon Standard or Gold Standard.
- How are you reducing waste, such as office supplies and food?
- What public commitments have you made? Suppliers may have joined groups such as The Climate Pledge or Leaders for Climate Action.
Sustainability – in all three pillars – should unite corporate travel and their suppliers. Everyone wins when the planet and people receive more long-term investment. Financially secure communities will better sustain their environments and bring more prosperity around the world.