Sustainable travel is nothing new – holidays companies such as Responsible Travel or Exodus have put people, place and planet at the core of their offerings for many years now. But what about those of us who want to be able to follow the same environmental, social and governance (ESG) values when we travel for business?
The good news is that if there is one lesson we have all learned from the pandemic, it is that we can all be kinder to the planet and appreciate the people around us - and this is especially relevant as Earth Day arrives on April 22.
For example, the Conscious Travel Foundation, a non‐profit network that aims to promote responsible travel practices through mentorship programs, was born out of the pandemic, as businesses realized that more can and should be done to make travel more sustainable.
Big brands such as Hilton Hotels and IHG have also increased their focus on improving their green credentials. Hilton Hotels has committed to reducing its carbon intensity by 61% and its water use intensity by 50% by 2030 in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement, while IHG has pledged to eliminate its 200 million single‐use mini toiletries across its hotels.
Discussions from last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) emphasized some stark realities, which mean that society is now making greater efforts to adopt greener living and working habits, something that the corporate travel sector cannot ignore.
So, here are two key areas that will drive conversations in the business travel space and help address the climate crisis: climate resilient locations and setting greener examples.
Finding complementary climate‐resilient locations
Climate‐resilient locations are areas that have the ability to anticipate, prepare for and respond to environmentally hazardous events, trends or disturbances. These are quickly becoming a hot trend in the world of corporate travel and for all the right reasons. Regions such as Scandinavia and North America, which offer good water and food security, have rich biodiversity and, most importantly, closely regulate environmental degradation, providing a solid foundation for businesses to build their portfolios on.
Instead of implementing systems that react to climate change, business travelers can focus on ways to preserve and transform local areas that resist climate change.
Vivi Cahyadi Himmel
In part, this is due to fewer complications when it comes to integrating tighter sustainability protocols, as these regions are more durable, allowing businesses to more easily align their needs with environmental considerations. Not only are these regions already fertile business hubs but they are also strategically positioned for corporate travelers given their ability to withstand rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather occurrences.
Prioritizing mitigation over adaptation is also a preferred avenue for business travel. Instead of implementing systems that react to climate change, business travelers can focus on ways to preserve and transform local areas that resist climate change as well as reduce emissions and build resilience in local communities.
Investing in climate‐resilient locations is, therefore, one solution that corporate booking platforms can take to measure up. On top of this comes the added desire to make cities and communities more sustainable as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Shifting your overall business strategy alongside these targets is important as it encourages businesses to be more environmentally progressive.
Setting greener examples with ESG
Seamlessly integrating ESG into their overall business strategies gives corporations the capabilities to influence wider change in the travel sector and helps them build on the existing momentum of environmental initiatives like the COP26 Summit. As outlined at the summit, setting stricter ESG targets will help the acceleration toward securing a global net‐zero by the mid‐century.
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With employee demand changing to become more sustainability focused, corporate booking platforms have a responsibility to support this transition. If you’re looking to align your booking processes with overarching sustainability values, transparency is essential.
Paul Proctor, vice president of commercial, Europe, for IHG Hotels & Resorts, echoes this request, saying that “more transparency about sustainability at the booking stage is a win‐win for corporate clients and hotels.” Adding to that, Paloma Zapata, CEO of Barcelona‐based Sustainable Travel International, cites the "climate‐smart forward‐thinking approach" that some businesses take, thus creating awareness and actively incentivizing employees to make smarter decisions and take ownership of their footprint. And with 89% of hospitality operators already investing in technology in 2021, it’s clear there is appetite for change.
So, technology is a key ingredient for stabilizing the contention between business travel and sustainability: by selecting platforms that offer cloud‐based sustainability filter tools, businesses can then better source properties that reflect their own environmental targets. For example, modular filters that highlight whether properties offer green assets, like recycling programs or environmental certification means customers can book accommodation that is more eco‐friendly and supports actions such as carbon offsetting.
These latest creations in the corporate booking cycle are setting out to overturn the outdated legacies associated with traditional booking processes, establishing a new frontier for combining customer sustainability values with technology‐driven capabilities to meet internal ESG standards. Giving users the ability to opt for more sustainable ways of living ensures that employees can gain a customized experience whilst also prioritizing methods that work to future‐proof the travel sector and the planet alike.
And because these tools can be easily accessed and adopted, they are a great equalizer and enabler for small operators who may not necessarily have the budget to create a sustainable blueprint.
Ultimately, travel won’t stop. In fact, business travel is expected to grow to $1.7 trillion this year which is another good reason for corporate booking platforms to support the shifting values of both employees and companies alike. It’s time we all consider how to become more smart, safe and sustainable ‐ combining technology solutions with environmental ethics might just be the first step.