When we think about the driving forces governing design, implementation and management of travel programs today, environmental sustainability is the first and biggest influence on most peoples’ lips.
It’s not that the climate has suddenly become fashionable, but rather that the global pandemic has presented our industry with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform, at a time when comparatively low activity and reduced impact on regular travel operations, is giving the issue the right amount of attention.
Putting in place a sustainability-focused program will help to future-proof organizations for decades to come. An emphasis on the environment has several benefits beyond the obvious ones for the planet.
Any company wanting to attract and retain the best and brightest talent in a socially conscious age, cannot afford to ignore its own sustainability. Also, being an active contributor to sustainable supply chains is increasingly a prerequisite to even be considered by potential customers.
CWT recently polled LinkedIn followers to find out whether they were prepared to make more sustainable choices regarding travel.
The results revealed that 31% are ready to reduce business travel. Another poll from YouGov pointed out that 34% of U.K. respondents believe environmental sustainability affects their decisions around travel (up from 30% in the previous year).
The debate about the need for sustainability in travel has been won. But for all the important and credible actions being taken to minimize our carbon footprint, we must ask ourselves what success looks like and how can that success be measured.
Do we do all the things to make a positive difference but without any idea of what progress looks like?
If we reflect on the BTN survey from the beginning of the year which highlighted that more than a third of participants didn’t have carbon reduction targets for their travel programs, then it looks like many of us are still shooting in the dark and hoping to hit the bullseye.
Possibly part of the reason for this is not knowing what is realistic and achievable, or how long success will take. But sustainability targets are extremely important. Even imperfect targets are better than having none at all. They can evolve and be refined over time to underpin the right behaviors and help companies chart a course towards an end goal.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
When it comes to focusing the organization on the task ahead, those who have not set specific targets should do so quickly, with a combination of long and short-term objectives that will be critical to building momentum.
Success measurement itself doesn’t need to be complicated. The number of companies – including CWT - signing up to the Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi) and aligning to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is growing and, if organizations can calculate a baseline upon which to improve, then this is the smart way to design those elusive targets.
The challenge then becomes what are the actions required to get there?
One commonly employed measure is offsetting. The idea of paying for others to reduce emissions or absorb CO2 to compensate for their own emissions, seems flawed because it doesn’t drive fundamental behavioral change. So, alone it won’t deliver sustainability that can be maintained over the long term.
However, offsetting does have a role to play in measuring success – for instance where standardized CO2 measurement is difficult.
We should therefore be thinking in parallel about overall de-carbonization, measured by tracking emission levels and carbon intensity reduction.
Recently almost every industry will have benefitted environmentally somehow from enforced homeworking and, this has given rise to the new definition of "permissible travel."
Therefore, one measure of success as we emerge from our isolation should be the carbon impact from eliminating travel that doesn’t add value to business activities, replaced instead by our favourite online conferencing tools.
However, the benefits of travel to organization and employee success is without question and so, the best outcome would be to maintain as much activity as possible, within budget, sustainably.
It’s an exciting time for our industry when we think about the potential for Sustainable Aviation Fuel, as an enabler to this.
As a measure of success, this can be a wonderful example of demonstrating year-over-year carbon reduction without sacrificing travel activity and all the payback that brings.
So, if we bring all things together, how do we measure the success of a sustainable travel programme? Focus on these three steps:
- Set and commit to targets for tangible CO2 reduction. Overall, a broad set of metrics is preferable to having just one or two and these should include monitoring amount of fuel used and tons of CO2 created to build up a picture of carbon intensity.
- Implement a broad suite of CO2 management initiatives, combining offsetting, investment in SAF, reduction in unnecessary trips and green choices for those trips that are taken.
- Third and fundamental to success is reporting, which should be thought of as the catalyst to track progress, highlight the reality of decisions and help people to make informed choices.
If implemented with a "whole of enterprise" mindset, then not only will success come from carbon reduction, but results should also be seen in an energized workforce and prolonged business success.