Opportunity exists for travel management professionals to consider sustainable practices when contracting with suppliers

Over half of North American companies have corporate sustainability programs in place

Only one in six travel management professionals (16 per cent) currently incentivize their business travellers to stay in hotels with sustainable practices, according to a new study released by the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association, in partnership with AIG Travel. Even fewer (four per cent) require travellers to book suppliers with sustainable practices, leaving a huge opportunity for the business travel industry to adopt and even incentivize more sustainable practices.

The study, Corporate Social Responsibility: Going Beyond Green, also revealed only five per cent of travel management professionals incentivize travellers to fly direct, three per cent incentivize travellers to use public transportation where available and two per cent incentivize travellers to share transportation to and from the airport when travelling with co-workers.

“Now more than ever before, companies are taking a holistic approach to improving what many call the ‘triple bottom line,’ comprised of social, environmental and financial factors, or the ‘three P’s,” people, planet and profits,” said Kate Vasiloff, GBTA research director. “Travel management professionals are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role within their organizations when it comes to making environmentally-conscious travel policies, vendor and supplier selections and options for travellers.”

More than half (53 per cent) of travel management professionals report their companies have a formal corporate sustainability program in place. When it comes to building sustainability into travel programs, the importance of evaluating existing and potential suppliers from a sustainability standpoint cannot be overlooked. Travel management professionals already take into account a myriad of factors including price, traveller preference and convenience. Contracting with sustainability-focused suppliers signals an organization’s concern and commitment to reducing and counteracting the harmful impact of business travel on the environment.

sustainability practices

When it comes to decisions for meeting and event planning, cost savings, convenience and sustainability often go hand-in-hand. For example, hosting an event with accommodations within walking distance saves on transportation, enhances the attendee experience and cuts down on the need to use CO2-emitting vehicles to transport attendees. When considering factors in a decision to contract with meetings and event suppliers, the top three sustainability-focused factors travel management professionals give some or a lot of consideration to include: finding a venue with enough walkable housing options to accommodate all attendees (59 per cent), selecting cities with airports accessible by public transportation (34 per cent) and choosing venues that support paperless events through use of digital tools and technology (27 per cent).

As travel arrangements involve travel management professionals, suppliers and oftentimes, travel management companies (TMCs), each have an important role to play in measuring and reducing carbon emissions from business travel. The travel management professionals surveyed reported that 37 per cent of their companies track the carbon footprint of their travellers; 23 per cent use a sustainability index or scorecard system to understand the sustainability practices of key suppliers; and seven per cent set carbon emission reduction targets for TMCs.

“Travel is more accessible today than ever before, and with this access comes a responsibility to positively impact the places we visit, whether for business or for leisure” said Jeff Rutledge, CEO of AIG Travel. “This research shows there is a major opportunity for companies to incorporate additional sustainability practices into their travel programs.”

Travel policy is a perfect vehicle to require or incentivize more sustainable practices – and, it can often save money as well. The benefits of establishing and growing corporate social responsibility programs and other sustainability-focused efforts is boundless, ranging from reducing negative impacts on the environment to elevated public perception, increased financial gains and higher employee satisfaction.

More Information:

The report, Corporate Social Responsibility: Going Beyond Green, is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org. Download a free preview of the research now. The GBTA Foundation will host a webinar, in partnership with AIG Travel, on April 6, 2017 at 2 p.m. ET to highlight the importance of incorporating both human and environmental factors into your organization’s program and learn how efforts- both large and small- can have a profound impact on your organization’s people, practices and perception. Register today: Corporate Social Responsibility- Going Beyond Green.

Methodology: The GBTA Foundation conducted an online survey of 90 travel management professionals in the United States and Canada. The survey was fielded January 11-19, 2017.

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