Q&A: Pippa Ganderton, ATPI Halo
Just over a year since ATPI launched its sustainability division, ATPI Halo, we speak to Product Director, Pippa Ganderton, about key trends and developments
Is sustainable business travel still moving up the corporate agenda?
We definitely saw a renewed interest in sustainability at the start of Q4. There was a renewed interest from clients we’d spoken to at the start of the year who are now setting their budgets for 2023 and are coming back to us to push things forward. For some this is because their internal ESG programmes have grown and they are looking to meet their targets. COP 27 in Egypt has also raised awareness and it’s all happening around the time organisations set their budgets for next year.
With regards to offsetting, there were definitely clients that would have liked to have got started this year but it wasn’t budgeted for. They’re now ready to offset in 2023 and a few are hoping to push through authorisation to start offsetting now, in this fourth quarter. Of course, best practice is to look to reduce as well as offset.
We also have some clients that consider ATPI Halo offsetting as part of the serviced mix provided by ATPI and are repeat customers on an agreed periodic basis. January will see a handful of clients offsetting at point of invoice, i.e. on a transactional basis.
What is prompting this renewed interest?
Clients have really developed their internal ESG strategies, with pressure coming from Board level, and travel managers are engaging in those conversations and are showing how they can bring something to the table on the travel side.
We’re also hearing from clients how potential investors are making decisions based on an organisation’s sustainability credentials and what they are doing to meet their carbon reduction targets. These investor are themselves being more diligent and are under pressure to invest in companies which are seen to be doing the right thing.
How are companies responding?
What we’ve seen with a number of clients is that they are setting carbon budgets and thresholds, sometimes at an organisational level and sometimes even down to a departmental level. That’s an interesting development, because it is creating more awareness around CO2 impact and whether some departments are travelling more or less. It is helping a few people ask themselves, do I really need to do that trip or can I maybe combine for a longer, more worthwhile trip?
So, are clients looking to compare the travel carbon footprint of departments, or even individuals, to encourage them to reduce?
We haven’t heard clients say they are going to do that but a lot of them are looking at being able to do that. They want the data to be there for analysis and to help them make decisions about when and how to travel and maybe to reward better decisions. But many don’t want to mandate or enforce, they want their people to make the decisions themselves and do things for the right reason.
What development are you seeing in relation to carbon emissions data?
I think CO2 is going to be far more visible in the coming year because people want to see their CO2 impact throughout the booking process. In RFPs, or where clients are moving to online booking tools, every corporate is now asking about CO2 data, and it’s not just for air, they want a more holistic analysis. Those are really important developments.
In our CO2 analysis dashboard we’ve also now created the ability to show clients equivalencies to carbon emissions to help their people better understand the impact of their travel. This might be showing how their trip is equivalent to running a petrol car for so many miles or heating so many average households in Europe.
How are higher airfares, hotel rates and other rising travel costs impacting decisions around sustainability?
The rising cost of travel generally is certainly making clients more aware of who needs to travel and for what reasons. Any reductions in travel made for financial reasons will, of course, also bring a sustainability benefit.
Alongside a growing awareness of wanting to do the right thing, clients are also looking at how they manage these rising costs, so some that might have initially wanted to offset all of their travel are now only able to offset a portion of it.
I believe CO2 calculations and methods of reporting will continue to evolve and that average CO2 will be as important as average fare to many clients. Where price is still a determining factor in decision-making, CO2 will gain importance for many.
What other trends are you seeing in relation to offsetting?
We’re seeing more clients allowing individual departments to choose offset projects, rather than it being decided by the company. Companies want to increase employee engagement and allow their people to feel part of the process.
There is still significant interest in nature-based projects and particularly in solid long-term projects, which also help clients meet their other UN Sustainability Goals in relation to social impact. Other clients will choose their offset projects on a geographical basis, perhaps selecting projects in Africa or Asia where their activities might have an impact and they want to compensate in those regions.