Making your travel programme more sustainable – is it as easy as a simple five step process?

9 December, 2021

Companies around the globe have woken up to the need to reduce their carbon footprints, particularly when it comes to business travel. But wanting to be more sustainable is easy - putting it into practice can be a lot harder, acknowledges a new guide from Zeno, the next generation online booking tool from New Zealand headquartered travel management and expense technology company, Serko.

Today's travel managers stand at the frontline of the issue, tasked with figuring out how to both cut emissions and support workers who need to move from A to B to conduct business. It's not easy to make sense of all the information out there about sustainable travel, but Serko suggest it could be as easy as following five simple steps to get any travel programme on a path to net zero carbon emissions.

In '5 steps to make your travel program more sustainable' it suggests making good choices, improving data, simplifying the path to offset, maximising the visibility of offsets and choosing good partners is the simple framework that can deliver a sustainable solution for businesses.

Step One: make good choices

Many of us are already trying to make better choices in our day-to-day lives that add up to a better result for the planet and travellers are obviously no different. Serko says the first step is as easy as simply empowering them with the information they need to make greener choices when booking their travel.

Providing information about the carbon impact of different flight options, including the relative emissions of different classes, makes it easy for travellers to identify and select lower-impact booking options. Another easy tip is to preference more environmentally friendly options in search results, such as more readily displaying electric vehicles and hybrids.

"Enabling better choices is a key step to drive meaningful change and reduce the footprint of your travel programme," explains Serko.

Step Two: improve your data

"Good data drives better decision making," says Serko and businesses should therefore account for factors like cabin class, accommodation type or specific ground transportation options so they have a clear picture of the true impact of business travel.

The second simple step in Serko's framework to help reduce carbon footprint is to give travellers access to the most granular data possible and to make it visible at the time of booking.

"When individuals have the ability to compare various travel options as they're planning a trip, they can make smarter decisions and feel good about doing their part to drive sustainability," it says.

Step Three: simplify the path to offset

Carbon offsetting is a critical component of an organisation's environmental strategy; a measurable and credible way to neutralise an organisation's greenhouse emissions. But to date, the process to measure and offset has been highly manual and cumbersome and as a result not well adopted. The third step in Serko's framework sees technology helping.

The advance of technology now means that many new generation platforms can do the heavy lifting with an integrated offset process within the booking flow of the corporate booking tool. Once the trip is taken, the itinerary data is normally sent to an offset provider which procures the carbon credits and reports back on agreed timescale basis.

Step Four: maximise the visibility of your offsets

Beyond the obvious benefits of reducing emissions and supporting the planet, a carbon offset programme can also help to increase employee satisfaction, providing reassurance to the workforce that their employer aligns with their values. It is also essential now to be seen to be taking action and is increasingly becoming a factor in purchase decisions.

The fourth step in Serko's framework is about increasing the visibility of sustainability actions. Displaying the environmental and social initiatives that the offset programme supports at the point of booking provides travellers with a tangible view on how they are making a positive impact on the environment and can travel in the knowledge that

Step Five: choose good partners

The demand for carbon offsetting has skyrocketed in recent years as companies try to reduce their net CO2 emissions, and that has "spawned operators of varying quality and credibility," according to Serko. This has been a major factor in offsetting programmes failing to deliver on their potential so Serko acknowledges the key fifth step in the framework is to ensure due-diligence on partners.

"When implementing an offset programme, it's important to make sure it's verified by third-party certification programmes and compliant with international integrity standards," it says.

Mission Zero in Zeno is Serko's path to a 'meaningful reduction' in business travel's environmental impact

Serko recently launched an initiative to drive "meaningful reduction" in the environmental impact of business travel through its Mission Zero capability in Zeno which empowers business travellers to make informed booking choices.

This is achieved by displaying the carbon offset data associated with flights within the booking flow, prioritising lower emission rental car options, and providing customers with the ability to offset emissions for a net zero travel programme through an integrated selection of targeted environmental programmes.

Organisations are facing increasing pressure to "walk the talk" when it comes to their commitment to minimise their impacts on the environment. With travel contributing around 8% of global CO2 emissions, delivering a cleaner travel programme is now a key priority for many travel managers.

"Companies must substantiate their commitments to reducing their carbon emissions impact by taking clear, actionable steps that lighten their environmental footprint," says Serko.

There is a stronger sustainability pull for corporate travel programmes

Environmental sustainability is a top ranking focus issue for corporate travel programmes and the procurement experts driving these programmes, according to new Corporate Travel Community (CTC) research.

The observation is from the CTC Corporate Travel Buyers' Survey, compiled in partnership with Serko. The survey of over 100 travel buyers completed in Oct-2021, provides some valuable insights into travel buyer sentiment, particularly on the matter of sustainability.

READ MORE: CTC Corporate Travel Buyers' Survey - a stronger sustainability pull for corporate travel programmes

Over seven-in-ten corporate travel managers agree that sustainability will be an important issue of the next 12 months. Of these, 8% described environmental sustainability as a 'critical' issue and a further 33% said it was 'very important'.

Is it as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5?

The '5 steps to make your travel program more sustainable' document certainly provides a simple pathway through what can be a complicated journey for businesses, especially as uncertainty continues to cloud the recovery of business travel from the seismic-shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recent travel buyers research from CTC observes the rising need for environmental sustainability and marries with other surveys across various industries that together show that businesses need to take action to meet the needs of their own employees, customers and business partners. After all, any improvement in sustainability credentials is a good first step in this process.