May 20, 2024

Lack of targets and cost hindering sustainable travel policies

More than half of travel planners have cited additional cost as the biggest barrier to implementing sustainable travel options.

Policy adoption is also being hindered by a lack of targets for sustainable business travel (cited by 45% of respondents), although 82% of companies have general sustainability goals in place.

Only 20% of business travellers are aware of their company’s sustainable travel goals.

Other challenges include traveller education, a lack of standard measurement approaches and definitions, and having the right tools, for example online booking tools supporting carbon budgets.

These findings are from a survey from BCD Travel which polled more than 100 travel buyers and almost 1,800 business travellers.

The survey found sustainable travel policies are popular with travel buyers, with 88% citing reduced environmental impact, 65% mentioning enhanced company reputation, and 46% pointing to talent recruitment and retention as the main benefits of adoption. 

Over two-thirds rate support of general company sustainability goals, tracking and reporting travel sustainability, and reducing the environmental impact of business travel as extremely or very important. Meanwhile, offsetting carbon emissions and satisfying traveller interests are the least important.

Yet, only one third of travel buyers require suppliers to have sustainability goals and commitments in place, and only a quarter look for suppliers with similar sustainability values and environmental certifications, such as EcoVadis. 

Around half of buyers see sustainability criteria as simply a “nice-to-have”.

A tiny 15% of travel buyers insist on the availability of a carbon emissions calculator, 17% on science-based targets and only 19% require other sustainability metrics. 

While half of companies encourage sustainable travel, only a third promote sustainable options at the point of booking. Reducing travel volumes and travelling by train instead of plane are the top two options promoted by travel buyers. 

Taking direct flights, combining several trips in one, and limiting the number of employees on the same trip, sharing ground transportation and choosing economy class over business class are all frequently recommended too. 

Only 30% of travellers are willing to pay more for travel to include carbon offsets or purchasing sustainable aviation fuel, despite over 50% saying they are willing to take fewer but longer business trips, or try new, more sustainable ways of travelling. 

There are also clear regional differences. EMEA focusses on reducing travel volumes and travelling by train instead of plane, while flying economy class instead of business and sharing ground transportation are more common in North American companies. Employers in APAC often promote direct flights and eco-friendly hotels.