Sustainability has become one of the hottest topics in the
travel industry in the past few years – and particularly since the start of the
pandemic, as the halt of travel put a spotlight on what “could be” and created
an opportunity to spur transformational change from this moment forward.
Consumers are indicating a heightened interest in sustainability
in all forms – environmental, economic and social. Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report 2021, based on surveys
of 30,000 people in 30 countries, finds 46% say the pandemic has made
them want to travel more sustainably in the future.
And many consumer-focused travel companies clearly recognize
this interest and the opportunity they have to differentiate their brands by taking
action on sustainability. In recent weeks brands such as CWT, Accor, Singapore
Airlines, Intrepid Travel and TourRadar have announced new initiatives
to reduce carbon emissions, support nature conservation, benefit local
communities and more. Last week Brazil’s
Azul airlines announced a $1 billion partnership with Lilium to begin
operating electric air taxis.
But what about sustainability action at B2B companies – those that do not deal
directly with travelers but provide the systems and services that keep the
industry running? A
new report from consulting firm Belvera Partners finds: “Sustainability
overall has had a poor take-up in the B2B travel space.”
For its report, Belvera assessed websites of 350 B2B travel
companies from around the world looking for sustainability policies, reports, examples
or any other meaningful mention and also whether the information was easy to
The findings indicate a lack of prioritization of
sustainability topics among B2B travel companies analyzed – or at the least, a
lack of public communication about their positions on this topic.
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The report finds only 43% of the companies analyzed mention
sustainability – or similar terms such as environment or CSR – on their websites.
Many fewer (24%) have sustainability policies on their sites and still fewer (17%) have any sort of “sustainability report.”
“If a company can’t demonstrate its sustainability
credentials, then stakeholders will quite reasonably assume the worst. Our data
shows then that the worst is what people must be assuming for the 83% of
organizations in our sector that still don’t produce something that can be
vaguely called a sustainability ‘report,’” says Roman Townsend, Belvera
Partners’ managing director.
“While the moral obligation is hopefully clear, the failure
to act is also hurting these businesses economically: banks are less likely to
lend, B2B partners are screening out such suppliers and employees are beginning
to vote with their feet too.”
Looking at 12 sub-sectors within the B2B the travel ecosystem,
aviation has the highest percentage of companies with a sustainability report
(42%) or at least a mention of sustainability on the company website (89%) –
although it scored below average on ease of finding sustainability information.
While the moral obligation is hopefully clear, the failure to act is also hurting these businesses economically.
Roman Townsend - Belvera Partners
The B2B car rental service sector scored the lowest, with
only 16% of companies mentioning sustainability and none having a report or
published policies. Travel technology companies come out slightly better than
the average for mentions of sustainability – 53% versus the 43% average across
all sectors - and for having published policies: 29% versus 24% average.
Looking at it geographically, the majority of companies
studied are headquartered in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom
and Spain. But the U.S. has the lowest percentage of companies with sustainability
reports – 13% - compared to the U.K. (23%) and Spain (19%).
“When you consider that we’ve set the bar pretty low here –
you just need a basic CSR report, some half thought through policies and a
picture of a beach clean-up, all easily available on your website, to get top
marks – then yes, it is a surprise that so many companies still can’t do even
that,” Townsend says.
“More shocking is that we contacted 100 or so companies
who have literally zero information, offering them a chance to update us, and
only seven even responded.”
The report also includes interviews with topic specialists such
as Laura Garrido, founder of ético, a sustainability strategy consultancy
focused on the tourism sector.
“So far in the B2B travel world it has not been a high
priority, mainly due to the lack of awareness on how to respond. Sustainability
has to be integrated into the DNA of an organization and continually be on the
executive committee agenda: considering not just the environmental, but the
social and economic elements too. Right now that is not happening nearly enough,”
The report also includes summaries of sustainability
strategies being implemented by Amadeus, ABTA and Hotelbeds and a list of 10 recommendations for B2B travel companies on how to begin a sustainability initiative.