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Why Corporate Travel is Taking the Sustainability Route

By Kathleen Burns
Why Corporate Travel is Taking the Sustainability Route

Sustainability is creating a lot of noise these days. It’s good for the environment, good for the bottom line, and good for employee relations.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, especially efforts to do business in a more environmentally-sustainable way, are changing the face of corporate travel. Sustainability is big these days. It’s good for the environment, good for the bottom line (when you don’t spend or waste unnecessarily), and good for employee relations.

Because sustainability efforts offer more than direct environmental benefits, companies of all sizes in all industries are getting involved. And because corporate travel is a major part of doing business (and a major contributor to corporate carbon footprints), companies are specifically looking for ways to bring greater sustainability to their corporate travel programs.

Air Travel is Target #1

Air travel is one of the world’s worst environmental offenders, responsible for 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions. That means flying is one of the most unsustainable actions any individual person can take, especially short-haul flights. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines recently announced their “Fly Responsibly” campaign, in which they invite travelers to consider the environmental cost of air travel before they book a flight.

Consumers can also participate in KLM’s CO2ZERO carbon-offset program. That’s not compulsory, at least not yet, but when an airline suggests a “less flying” approach to travel, that’s fuel for thought – for enterprises, travel managers and all employees, whether they travel for business, leisure, or both.

Why your business cares about sustainable business travel

Companies rely on travel to conduct and grow their business. And they spend a tremendous amount of money putting employees on the road and supporting them while they’re away. So while you aren’t about to jettison your corporate travel program, there are ways you can make it more sustainable. And good reasons why you should.

Going green is good for business reputation

Stakeholders from investors to consumers and employees all consider a company’s reputation when deciding whether to invest time and/or money. Working to improve corporate travel sustainability is one way organizations can demonstrate not only concern but action.

Employees want to work for companies that care

Studies show that sustainability efforts:

  • Motivate employees to “do the right thing” because their employer is setting the example.
  • Increase employee commitment and retention, and make the company more attractive to prospective employees as well – especially Millennials, who want to work for “high impact” companies.
  • Boost employee engagement and performance, because people feel good about their company and contributing to the company’s success.
  • Can even inspire greater creativity.

Bob Stiller, founder of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, sums it up: “I’ve learned that people are motivated and more willing to go the extra mile to make the company successful when there’s a higher good associated with it. It’s no longer just a job. Work becomes meaningful and this makes us more competitive.”

Going green is good for your bottom line

McKinsey & Company says, “Companies face increasing pressure from governments, competitors, and employees to play a leading role in addressing a wide array of environmental, social, and governance issues,” and that many firms that have adopted CSR practices are seeing real benefits including increased sales and reduced costs and risks and even higher quality management.

“Companies can directly value the financial effects of many such programs,” they say, “even in the short term; the impact of environmental programs, for example, can often be measured quickly with traditional business metrics such as cost efficiency.”

It’s the right thing to do

The Harvard Business Review says corporate social responsibility “has emerged as an inescapable priority for business leaders in every country,” not only for sustainability, but for moral obligation, reputation, and in some cases, license to operate. And companies that understand the opportunities are benefiting. Forty percent of corporations in Europe and the US that have adopted sustainability initiatives “have witnessed a better public image, more productive and efficient businesses processes and improve employee morale.”

Sustainable business travel simply makes good sense

Do you have any idea what your travel-related carbon footprint is now? Without data and metrics to assess that data, you won’t know if implementing sustainable travel practices is having any effect. Besides, true sustainability requires thinking beyond carbon. You need a long-term plan, as well as ways to measure success. How can you do that? In upcoming articles, we’ll give you — and your employees — tips on traveling more sustainably.


posted by

Kathleen Burns

better corporate travel starts here.