May 20, 2024

Sustainability trends

Eight experts outline the key business travel sustainability trends for 2023 and beyond

We must avoid carbon tunnel vision

Glenn Thorsen, Global Sustainability Lead, FCM Consulting

As we enter the corporate travel industry’s next phase of sustainability, it has become critical to avoid ‘carbon tunnel vision’ and start exploring the non-carbon sustainability metrics.

Non-carbon metrics are a blend of all considerations for sustainable travel choices. These are metrics such as percentages of bio-cleaning products, local sourcing percentages for F&B programmes, non-single use or microplastic cleaning equipment, and much more. These indicators and metrics are closer aligned to our day-to-day consumer decisions and will begin to increase in importance throughout the modern sustainable travel programme.

For the next 12 months, I foresee product developments where travel managers will be able to highlight options based on their performance within various categories in differing scales, in addition to balancing the traditional factors, including cost and duty of care, all to ensure the modern sustainable travel programme is an evolution into our everyday lives.

Time for transparent, open-source data

Delphine Millot, SVP Sustainability and MD GBTA Foundation

As we move into 2023, pressure will accelerate for concrete action and progress to reduce emissions from business travel. While efforts to date have been laudable, they’ve also been fragmented. Voices are now emerging to call for radical collaboration, transparency and open-source data to move sustainability from a competitive differentiator to an ‘all must win’ game.

2023 will also be the year government action will materialise, especially in Europe. The lack of standards and methodologies have been holding us back short-term due to a lack of comparable data. Simply put, if we don’t know what our emissions are, it’s perilous to put a plan in place to reduce them. This is where governments, working hand in hand with industry players like GBTA, will step in, to give a measure of certainty and level the playing field.

It’s critical for travel managers to stay abreast of these developments as they will increasingly be asked to track, report and reduce emissions from their programmes. Travel managers are at a critical nexus because they can directly manage emissions related to business travel and also drive change along the supply chain through collaboration and engagement with their suppliers.

The tide of sentiment is turning

Liz Emmott, Trainline, Director of Global Distribution and Business Solutions

Last April, the UK Government enshrined into law mandatory climate disclosures for over 1,300 of the largest UK-registered companies. This was just the first stage of the legislation’s roll-out, but it was a significant landmark that paves the way for businesses to ensure that sustainability considerations are embedded in their decision making, with the risks (and opportunities) of climate change properly considered.

Companies are encouraged to measure scope 3 emissions where appropriate. In 2023, it will also be mandatory for large companies and certain financial sector firms to publish transition plans, again with the recommendation to include scope 3 emissions.

For those companies with significant business travel footprints, having such legislation in place provides real impetus for travel buyers and managers to step up and embrace the challenge. The tide of sentiment is turning already and the impetus from these changes will enable travel buyers and managers to embed sustainability at the forefront of their business’s agenda.

Clients are seeking a greener supply chain

Toby Roberts, Quality Assurance Manager, SilverDoor

Sustainable travel is a massive consideration which is driving the trend towards fewer trips and longer length of stays. There is greater internal discussion at a corporate level on whether transient travel is necessary and whether online meetings are a substitute for in-person assignments.

Clients are increasingly seeking a greener supply chain in order to reduce their own carbon footprints, meet their ESG targets and work toward net zero goals.

The supply chain would do well to track, report and provide tangible data on their carbon reduction efforts, as well as their overall carbon footprint – starting now

Pressure to innovate will intensify

Ami Taylor, Thrust Carbon, Head of Channels

Travel Managers will hold an even more pivotal role in 2023 as organisations prepare for incoming legislation, which will broaden the scope of mandated emissions reporting to include business travel for any organisation with operations within the EU. 2022 saw huge strides in sustainability, with online booking solutions now informing travellers of their emissions at point of sale.

Research from SAP Concur found 88% of buyers would switch to technologies with more sustainability support, meaning that other corporate booking tools will likely be quick to follow suit this year.

Boardrooms recognise that sustainability is financially rewarding, so the pressure on the industry to innovate will intensify. Carbon budgets have been cited as the most cost-effective lever to reduce emissions at the pace and scale needed to meet climate targets. A rising number of organisations are implementing carbon budgets at departmental level, so for forward-thinking TMCs and OBTs, this is likely to be their next area of focus.

Industry collaboration is key

Clive Wratten, BTA CEO

2022 was a strong year for business travel’s recovery and yet concerns mount for 2023. Issues around cost, geopolitical instability and sustainable travel are on the rise. To pick one trend, the development towards sustainable travel is crucial to the future of our industry. However, BTA research suggests that almost a third of the business travel community view the subject as a major challenge for 2023.

We know that the industry must address the global introduction of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), the electrification of rail, and the implementation of stricter carbon offsetting regulations to incite meaningful change.

To tackle these issues, we are asking the Government to ring-fence part of its Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax for the development of SAF or green initiatives. Supporting this, travel management companies are widely taking steps to highlight the sustainable choice for travellers at the point of booking.

Our industry can collaborate to make the sustainable choice the cheapest and easiest for traveller. We will not tackle sustainability targets outside of this.

New generation puts sustainability first

Mariusz Zabrocki, General Manager of FREE NOW UK

The run to net zero and the current socio-economic climate are driving real change in work and mobility and behaviours, both from an employee but also from a company perspective.

Currently, over half of the workforce are Millennials and by 2025 27% of the workforce will be Gen Zs. These generations put sustainability at the forefront.

For instance, fewer people in these age groups, particularly from Gen Z, have a driving licence or consider car ownership because they don’t see this as the most convenient and ‘best’ transport mode to travel, particularly those who live and work in cities.

Furthermore, this new workforce is less willing to commute or travel for work purposes and when doing so, they want to do it in a cost-effective way that gives them flexibility and freedom of choice, ideally combining different modes of transport.

Our recent survey revealed that 60% of employees would be more likely to go back to the office if they had a mobility budget.

Brands will need to work doubly hard

Karim Malak, easyHotel CEO

Research shows that customers are willing to pay more to stay in low-carbon, low-emission hotels. Low carbon traditionally isn’t always associated with low price, so brands will need to work doubly hard to demonstrate that customers can enjoy affordable prices and low-emission solutions.

It is important to implement proactive and authentic low-carbon solutions, rather than lots of unspecific measures to compensate for higher emissions. And this doesn’t just apply to individual travellers. As we get closer to key net zero deadlines, more businesses will be looking to travel sustainably. Hotels that provide concrete low carbon solutions for their guests without compromising on comfort or cost will be most likely to succeed.

For more business travel trend, see our Trends Special