The key ingredients of a responsible business travel policy
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By Carolyn Wincer, 28th August 2021
In this article, Travelife for Accommodation explains the factors businesses need to consider to ensure they improve the environmental and social impacts from corporate travel.
Most companies need to travel for business, some on a daily basis and some just a few times a year. Regardless of where your business fits in, you should develop a responsible travel policy and implement responsible travel practices as part of your efforts to reduce carbon emissions and improve your social impacts.
Ideally this will begin with an assessment of your business travel needs and it probably goes without saying that this should look at your pre-COVID-19 activity. Whilst your travel requirements may have changed since then due to improvements in technology that enables many meetings to happen remotely, this review will help you identify where and when you still need to travel, and how many employees should be involved. Be as detailed as possible in your review by looking at routes, spend and which suppliers you tend to use.
From there you should look at alternatives that are less carbon intensive and improve the other impacts of your travel, such as supporting airlines that are being proactive about reducing their own carbon footprint and looking for ways that travel can improve the socioeconomic well-being in the destinations your staff visit.
There is a big difference in the emissions produced by a 1980’s Boeing 757 vs a Boeing Dreamliner. You can help reduce carbon emissions and contribute to an overall demand for more efficient aircraft by trying to fly staff on the most modern aircraft. For example, you could have a policy stating that it is acceptable to spend up to 25% more on an airfare if the flight is listed on a modern lower-emission aircraft.
Efficient ground transport
Review the way you use transfers, taxis and other ground transport options to see if you can improve your emissions along with your impact on air quality and congestion. Prioritise transport companies that use energy efficient vehicles such as electric cars, and encourage travel by train where possible, along with the use of public transport when it is available and safe to do so.
Obviously we want people to support Travelife Certified accommodation! But even without our presence, it is really important to support hotels that are taking real action to improve their impacts. You should look for GTSC-recognised sustainability labels like Travelife because that means the property has had their sustainability credentials independently verified. Your travel policy should encourage staff to find the most sustainable accommodation options.
The right travel agent
Many corporate/business travel agents are doing more to ensure their customers can reduce their carbon impacts and improve their social impacts. Ask your current travel agent what they are doing in this area and if you are looking for a new travel manager, be sure to check their website to see if they are linked to reputable sustainable tourism programmes and if they have a sustainability policy or report available.
Businesses concerned with being carbon neutral should start by eliminating emissions wherever possible, then look at reputable offsetting programmes for the emissions that are impossible for them to eliminate. When it comes to business travel, some airlines and travel companies offer ways to do this at the time of booking and, more recently, some travel companies include offsets in the price of the trip. If your business needs to use offsetting in order to be carbon neutral, do your homework to ensure you are using a reputable offsetting organisation whose methods actually take carbon out of the atmosphere.
Brief your staff
Even the most seasoned travellers on your team will benefit from regular reminders about how to travel responsibly. We recommend that you come up with a short training session and/or flyer to support your staff. This should cover how to book responsibly, how to pack light in order to reduce emissions from flying and how to have a positive impact on the communities they visit. Click here to see an example we produced that was designed for Travelife hotels to give to guests during the pandemic, but we encourage you to come up with a format that best suits your business and the type of travel you do. We strongly recommend that you include regular training on how to identify and report any suspected instances of exploitation such as human trafficking and child abuse.
Any successful policy relies on support from senior management, so be sure that senior managers have input into the development of your responsible travel policy and sign it off before it is implemented. You should try to provide reports to senior management at least once a year about the progress you have made as a result of the policy. For example, data about your emissions reductions.
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