October 1, 2022
 

Not just a box to tick

Sustainability must now be part of your company's DNA and, as a travel manager, you have a vital role to play. Here's what the experts had to say...

It’s been creeping up the corporate agenda for many years but following the pandemic pause, CEOS in Board rooms all over the world are finally making firm commitments to sustainability and giving it the full attention it deserves.

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, has noticed a “re-energised awareness” of sustainable travel activities following major events such as COP26.

“2022 brings a new dawn of sustainable urgency and it is incredibly exciting to be at the forefront of this change,” he says.

Aman Pourkarimi, Head of Consulting Gray Dawes Group, says COP26 has helped make sustainability goals “a must have, rather than a nice to have”.

But he warns: “Travel managers must explore various carbon measurement approaches and work out how they can influence travel sustainably through identifying low-carbon emitting suppliers, rather than stunting business continuity and traveller comfort through restricting travel and/or downgrading class.”

Sustainability will be the theme that defines not only the next few years but the next few decades, says Ian Sinderson, CEO ATPI, who believes travel managers and TMCs have a key role to play. 

“It’s increasingly likely that, like financial disclosures, emissions disclosures will become mandatory and that greater transparency regarding what businesses are doing to reduce their environmental impact will be the norm,” he explains. 

“Travel managers will need to work with their TMCs to evaluate their supply chain and develop ESG-compliant travel programmes that meet the needs of the business, both in terms of competitiveness and sustainability with very long goals in mind.”

“The important thing for corporates to remember is that they’re not expected to have all the answers, but they are expected to be taking steps”

Ewan Kassir, Head of Global Sales, Clarity, says responsible TMCs need to help clients understand their own objectives, how they fit into corporate strategy and what success looks like.

“They should help translate this information to shape travel policy and give guidance to bookers and travellers on how to drive behavioural change.

“The booking process also needs to encourage and promote these changes. Does your booking technology display CO2 data at the point of sale? Is that data captured so you can use it to drive change? Can you police carbon footprint and set budgets by department or by individual, and report on them monthly? Can the CO2 impact of your meetings and events be measured?” 

Nobody can ignore sustainability, says Nicola Cox, Director at Midas Travel, but achieving truly responsible business travel is not an easy task.

“The important thing for corporates to remember is that they’re not expected to have all the answers, but they are expected to be taking steps. This could be through education, data, behavioural change or just offering more choice,” she explains. 

“Sustainability is a key cultural driver for younger generations, so not having a policy in place will undoubtedly impact your recruitment as they look towards your travel policy. That, and proposed future financial penalties, could mean that inactivity will start to really hit your bottom line.”

Efforts will need to be supported company-wide, says Barry Fleming, Head of Marketing for Blue Cube Travel.

“These are no longer tick box exercises, these are serious business credentials which should become part of a company’s DNA”

“Whoever in the business (ideally at C-Suite level) with overall responsibility for sustainability needs to create a clear actionable strategy and plan, whether that means reducing travel for certain reasons, enforcing less impactful forms of travel on certain journeys, building a preferred supplier programme which considers sustainability credentials, and maybe even setting departments a CO2 budget that they need to keep within, alongside a spend budget.

“But, fundamentally, you need to have a plan, policy and tools that directly drive change, rather than it just being about awareness and aspiration.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO Advantage Travel Partnership, believes macro environment impacts will be a major consideration in all business activities, with performance metrics and personal accountability enforced to ensure that all employees, businesses and approaches are aligned to the big ticket items such as sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, risk, safety and security and mental health. 

“These are no longer tick box exercises, these are serious business credentials which should become part of a company’s DNA,”  she said.