Many companies today are focused on corporate social responsibility, and sustainable business travel can play a big role in CSR strategies.
As a Travel Manager and the person in charge of arranging travel for your company, you have so much to think about and consider on a day-to-day basis, but there’s an emerging trend that also deserves your attention: using sustainable business travel to support corporate social responsibility efforts.
In the 21st century, companies are focusing more and more on corporate social responsibility — called “CSR,” for short. CSR can include charitable giving and philanthropy programs, operating a business ethically, considering what’s best for the communities where a company operates, as well as taking care of the environment.
Business travel, of course, greatly expands a company’s carbon footprint. But a new report jointly offered by Booking.com and JTB Business Travel outlines 6 steps you can take in using sustainable business travel to reduce that footprint and support your company’s corporate social responsibility goals.
1. Consider CSR When Creating Travel Policies
Your company no doubt has a travel policy in place. Your company may also have in place a CSR policy. If so, the two policies should support one another.
Many companies express a desire to reduce their carbon footprints, but actually doing so can be much more difficult. That is, environment-related CSR ideas are easy to come by, but their implementation is far more challenging.
That’s why business travel is such a prime area to put CSR concepts into action. Global travel is one of the major contributors to carbon emissions. When your corporate travel policy includes measures designed to reduce those emissions, that’s an actionable step that can deliver real results.
2. Make Sure You Can Measure
Come up with some sort of measurement for your company’s sustainable business travel. Without measuring the impact business travel makes on the environment, it’s hard to understand how successful (or unsuccessful) your sustainability efforts are.
Measuring need not be complicated. In fact, there’s a relatively simple method you can use to calculate the sustainability of your business travel. You only need a system for keeping track of these two things:
- Method: Assign an environmental “cost” to various methods of travel, including airplanes, trains, taxis, buses, etc. Each time one of your traveling team members uses one of those methods, it incurs a cost to the environment that can be tabulated over time.
- Mileage: Keep track of mileage traveled using each method. Flight mileage is easy to secure, as it’s listed on most itineraries. Rental car mileage is often recorded on the invoice issued up return. Taxi entries on expense reports should include start and end points, which makes calculations straightforward.
3. Help Travelers Make Sustainable Decisions
Once you know the methods and mileages from any given trip, you can then use online tools like The Converging World’s Carbon Calculator to determine the cost to the environment of any given trip.
Your plans for sustainable business travel won’t go anywhere without internal buy-in. Once your travel policy includes sustainability measures, be sure to communicate those measures in a way that connects with employees.
As you seek buy-in from team members, consider these three strategies:
- Get Employees Involved: Seek input from employees who travel. For example, solicit their ideas for how to reduce their individual carbon footprints while traveling. If they have a sense of ownership, they will be much more likely to adhere to travel policies meant to promote sustainability.
- Make Goals Clear: Let your travelers know exactly what the target or goal for sustainability is. For example, your company may want to reduce its travel-related carbon footprint by 10% in a year. Let everyone know about that target — and how each traveler can help make progress toward that goal.
- Provide Regular Education: Create regular opportunities for education. Hold quarterly seminars that share best practices as well as progress toward sustainability goals.
Remain consistent as you seek buy-in from your travelers. Consistently get them involved. Consistently share the sustainability goals (and progress toward those goals). And provide consistent education, whether in person or via email.
4. Rethink Company Meetings
Skype, Facetime and other digital tools can sometimes replace in-person meetings — which is good, because the best way to reduce travel spend and a carbon footprint is to not travel in the first place. Virtual meetings don’t always work, though. Consider the following tips for reducing your company’s meeting-related carbon footprint while also promoting corporate social responsibility:
- Location: Strategically pick meeting locations that minimize travel distance for participants, or locations that allow for train or bus travel rather than air travel. As an added bonus, shorter trips can also help improve the business traveler experience.
- Materials: Provide meeting materials digitally and encourage participants to not print them off.
- Venues and Vendors: Look for meeting venues that have in place sustainability practices. Also, consider caterers and other vendors that locally source their ingredients and materials.
In-person meetings will always be a significant part of doing business. But use the ideas above to make those in-person meetings more sustainable.
5. Examine Your Supply Chain
When your company maintains a large supply chain, it’s likely there are waste and duplicated efforts among the supply chain’s different organizations. A close examination of your company’s supply chain can help eliminate that waste and duplication — while also helping to decrease the amount of time your team members spend traveling for supply chain-related reasons.
When examining your supply chain, look for:
- Suppliers who are closer to your business
- Modes of transportation (rail, ferry, etc.) that are less carbon-intensive than airplanes
- Opportunities to recycle and reuse materials rather than restocking
If and when you “green” your supply chain, you should find that your company’s carbon footprint associated with business travel decreases, too. For example, it’s far more sustainable to visit local or regional suppliers than it is to fly from one coast to the other.
6. Turn to Technology
Travel managers today are fortunate to have so many tools and technologies available to them. New technology can help streamline the booking and expense processes, and it can also be used to track and monitor business travel-related sustainability.
For example, many dedicated business booking systems (Booking.com included) can help track the metrics (like travel method and mileage) that are needed to determine a trip-by-trip carbon footprint figure.
Make Sure You Have the Right Tools and Latest Technologies
Does your company have in place the right tools and technologies for managing business travel and its impact on corporate social responsibility? At JTB Business Travel, we provide comprehensive services to our corporate clients — including helping them evaluate and select travel technologies that fit their needs.
We help companies reduce their travel spend while also improving the business traveler experience. Behind every recommendation we make and every service we provide is a common sense approach to business travel.