While 82% of companies have sustainability goals in place, only 45% have targets for sustainable business travel, with only 20% of business travellers are aware of their company’s sustainable travel goals.
This is according to a BCD Travel survey of more than 100 travel buyers and almost 1,800 business travellers to gauge the importance of environmental sustainability in business travel.
Among the top three sustainability priorities, travel buyers name supporting general company sustainability goals, tracking and reporting travel sustainability, and reducing the environmental impact of business travel. Over two-thirds rate these priorities as extremely or very important. Meanwhile, offsetting carbon emissions and satisfying traveller interests are the least important.
Benefits and challenges
In addition to reduced environmental impact (88%), travel buyers see enhanced company reputation (65%), and talent recruitment and retention (46%) among the main benefits of adopting a sustainable travel programme. However, more than half mention the extra cost of sustainable travel options as their biggest pain point. Other challenges include traveller education, a lack of standard measurement approaches and definitions, and having the right tools, e.g., online booking tools supporting carbon budgets.
Only one-third of travel buyers require suppliers to have sustainability goals and commitments in place. A quarter looks for suppliers with similar sustainability values and environmental certifications such as EcoVadis.
One sixth requires the availability of a carbon emissions calculator, science-based targets and other sustainability metrics. Although most buyers don’t mandate sustainability criteria, around half view them as “nice-to-have”.
Sustainable travel options
While half of companies encourage sustainable travel, only a third promote sustainable options at the point of booking. Reducing travel volumes and travelling by train instead of plane are the top two options promoted by travel buyers. They often also promote taking direct flights instead of connecting flights, combining several trips in one, and limiting the number of employees on the same trip. Additionally, travellers mentioned sharing ground transportation and choosing economy class over business class as frequent recommendations by their companies.
During a trip, the most popular traveller sustainability practices relate to hotel stays. Seven in 10 travellers avoid frequent towel changes, and six in 10 refrain from using daily housekeeping. Recycling, going paperless with travel documents, supporting local vendors or walking where possible are similarly popular. Some four in 10 also mention travelling with only hand luggage and bringing their own reusable water bottle.
While over half of travellers are willing to take fewer but longer business trips, or try new, more sustainable ways of travelling, only 30% are willing to pay more for travel to include carbon offsets or purchasing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The surveys reveal regional differences in sustainable practices for both travellers and travel buyers. Companies in EMEA focus on reducing travel volumes and travelling by train instead of plane, while flying economy class instead of business and sharing ground transportation are more common in North American companies. Employers in APAC often promote direct flights and eco-friendly hotels.