5 ways to get sustainability right in your travel program

By Wendy White, CMO Egencia

As people everywhere become committed to more sustainable leisure and corporate travel, companies are exploring ways to evolve their travel programs to honor the sentiment of their employees and achieve their corporate social responsibility goals.

If the above rings true for your business, you may be asking what next? How does your business start working to leverage employee culture, industry partnerships, and corporate social responsibility programs to shape business travel programs? One place to start: partner with a travel management company (TMC) that reflects your company’s values.

At Egencia, we operate as a carbon-neutral company as part of the Expedia Group. We offset our entire company footprint through tree planting and our support for sustainable tourism programs. Our own challenging green goals are a big driver for us and help us when it comes to understanding and supporting yours.

Once your TMC is in place, you can start working on creating a more sustainable travel program. Here’s how:

Five steps to creating a more sustainable business travel program

  1. Don’t be an island: create a sustainability team

People across your company have a stake — and likely an interest — in building a more sustainable program. First, make sure you invite people from the following departments to get involved: travel, HR, security, purchasing, and communications. Schedule meetings to work together on deciding short, and long-term goals and work out how you’ll hit them.

  1. Build sustainable travel into your policies

Now, you can reset your travel policies with the help of your sustainability team. Consider your green goals at every turn and ask yourself if your current policies are really getting you closer to them.

Look at the following areas of your program:

  • General guidelines
    • Limit the number of travelers per trip to reduce your carbon footprint and ask for more meetings per trip to help your travelers make the most of their time on the road
    • Limit the number of trips per month, per traveler
    • Promote the use of public transport
    • Encourage the use of e-ticketing and apps to avoid paper waste
    • Ask your travelers to pack lighter luggage to reduce their environmental impact
  • Transport and accommodation
    • Air: Encourage travelers to book direct flights
    • Hotel: Add custom locations and preferred hotels on your booking tool
    • Rail: Ask travelers to consider rail before air for short trips
    • Car rental: Encourage the use of hybrid or electric cars

If you’re already one of our customers, don’t forget to flag the above preferences with a tag on Egencia. That way, you can communicate your policies and help your travelers make more sustainable choices.

  1. Build the right supplier mix

The right supplier mix can help you smash your business’ environmental goals. It’s important to ask and understand what your travel suppliers are doing to support sustainable travel. Then consider how they may impact or improve your program’s own sustainability aims.

Take these tips:

  • Work with the Egencia Consulting team to create and implement a Sustainable Hotel Program
  • Define a supplier scoring system: Ask targeted questions in your next hotel RFP, or use the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) ranking to identify local transport opportunities
  • Map your preferred airlines, accounting for a high DJSI rank, CO2 reporting, and compensation
  • Shift to trains and local transport options like trams and subways
  • Choose rental car providers with hybrid and electric vehicles
  1. Focus on reporting

The CO2 dashboards in Egencia Analytics Studio help our customers monitor their travel program’s carbon footprint. The dashboard data is key to understanding performance and measuring sustainability success.

“The Egencia CO2 dashboard is brilliant for us. It gives us visibility of our carbon impact, and the footprint we have as a business. It helps us to understand and educate our travelers as well. We want to educate travelers on the impact of flying long haul business class, first-class, or economy. We’ve all got to play a part in the fight against climate change, and the dashboard gives us data we can use to influence and change behaviors.” 

— Michael McSperrin, global head of facilities and support services at Alexander Mann Solutions.

Define the KPIs for your program’s policies so you can track your progress:

  • Travel policy: Use the points from section two (above) to set specific, measurable goals and determine how you’ll decide if they’ve been successful
  • Suppliers: Use part three (above) to measure whether your travelers are frequently using the sustainable suppliers you’ve suggested, shifting from air to rail, and choosing green car rentals
  • Traveler well-being: Include features like number of days per trip, night flights taken, and mileage used
  1. Encourage sustainable traveler and arranger behavior

Inform your travelers about any changes to your travel program and help train them to become eco-responsible travelers. Don’t forget to ask for their ideas here too; you could have a passionate sustainability expert in your organization and not even realize.

Follow these tips:

  • Promote responsible consumption, e.g., avoid wastage, use plastic alternatives, recycle, and reuse
  • Include and promote sustainable policies within your company’s culture
  • Monitor and reward sustainability performance

Getting started 

From defining your goals to supporting the right behaviors, you should now have enough information to start creating a more sustainable business travel program. Start by getting your green team together to make the most of everyone’s insights and ideas. Then, make sure your partners are working just as hard as you; as Michael McSperrin says above, “we’ve all got to play a part in the fight against climate change.”

Find out more about Egencia CO2 workspaces, discover the truth behind some common misconceptions about sustainable travel, and learn how avoid them.