Recently, Managing Director Julie Oliver was asked to comment on her thoughts about sustainable travel initiatives. She was asked whether she thought it was ‘back on the agenda’ for corporations and suppliers and asked to comment on what kind of help is there for organisations who are looking to ‘travel green’. Here’s what she said:
“Sustainable business travel practice is a phrase that we’ve heard on and off again for over a decade and its most certainly had its peaks and troughs in terms of popularity and implementation.
Prior to the economic crash around 2008-2009, sustainable travel practices were a big priority for our clients, with many looking to offset their carbon footprint or requiring consultation on their policy with an aim to weave in strong themes of ‘making greener choices’ for their travellers.
However, the nature of the recession deprioritised green initiatives and for some, deprioritised the need to travel altogether during that period. Whilst organisations across the U.K and Europe looked to trim down their outgoings as much as possible, there wasn’t much headspace (or budget!) left for implementing green initiatives.
The good news is that now the recession is put firmly behind us, organisations are once again looking into sustainable travel practice in some form or another and whilst I wouldn’t say its ‘back on the agenda’ per say, there are definitely murmurs of interest from particular clients and a renewed curiosity into this area of corporate travel.
I do think, however, that the last 12 months in particular have seen some big changes in the business travel industry and we may find that green travel won’t fully be ‘back on the table’ as a number one priority for some years. Duty of care, the sharing economy, cost savings, gamification and open booking… I think there are continuously going to be some big conversations to be had and I’m not 100% certain that sustainable travel practice will be prioritised over some of those. It would be great to see it up there of course; I just expect we’ll see more changes to corporate travel in the next 18 months than we have in the last 18 years so I’m not sure where green practice fits in right now compared to traveller security or open booking.
We might even find that green travel comes back on the agenda in legislation of some form, as environmentalism and green travel – particularly with regards to air quality in densely populated cities – is high on governmental agenda right now. So we may find that sustainable travel initiatives may be a conversation suppliers and organisations will have to prioritise in the coming months.
Having said that, most TMCs and Business Travel Solutions Partners like ourselves are well equipped to cater for organisations who are looking to maintain their regular travel operations whilst minimalizing their impact on the environment. Online booking tools should automatically populate a domestic rail fare alongside a domestic air search, breaking down the cost, the journey time and importantly, the released emissions for both; prompting the traveller to think twice before opting for a domestic air ticket. Nearly all of our clients request CO2 emissions reporting from us, either monthly or annually, with an aim to offset their carbon footprint using an accredited organisation or we can source a partner to do that for them. I would suggest that around half of our client portfolio have ‘sustainable initiatives’ weaved into their policy in some form or another; whether it’s car-sharing, domestic travel limitations or best practice on simply ‘questioning the need to travel’.
Our consulting arm, Planit Consulting, has met with a number of clients and suppliers over the years to ensure that the supply chain we use – and subsequently that our clients use – is minimising its impact on the environment and looking after its staff. We’ll review everything in this process; from diversity in staffing to what kind of toilet paper is used in the hotel bathroom to ensure it’s as impact-less as possible and we’ll make sure this is enshrined in stone within the hotel RFP formalities.
For the right kind of client who really prioritizes green initiatives, their TMC or Business Travel Solutions Partner should have the right (solar-powered) weapons in the armory to recognise its importance.”