Business travel must improve sustainability record

Despite widespread introduction of policies and guidelines, most employers are failing to enforce environmental decision-making on transport modes. 

man in black pants and black jacket walking on ice covered ground

Business travellers across Britain are failing to transition to more environmentally friendly journeys, according to recent data. The blame is being levelled at organisations, which staff believe have a responsibility to enable and ensure sustainable travel regardless of costs. 

71% want their employer to do more in this area, and 74% say it falls to managers and directors to enforce policies. 76% would prioritise sustainable travel if there was a viable programme or a financial incentive, but currently just 16% prioritise the environment when planning a trip. Employers suggesting loyalty schemes and convenience trump climate protection. 

Conducted by spend optimisation specialist Emburse, the survey involve more than 1,000 members of staff and 254 employers. Of the latter, more than seven-in-ten had introduced sustainability policies or guidelines, but little over one-third were actively making sure these were being followed. 

Last week, Environment Journal reported on the rise in bookings for travellers between London and Edinburgh opting for rail journeys rather than flights. A key reason for growth over the past few years has been the introduction of cheaper service providers on the 400mile route, which prior to the pandemic saw the majority of passengers look to planes over trains. This trend has now been reversed.

‘Business travel has defied expectations by seeing an almost complete return to pre-pandemic levels. But we can’t just go back to business as usual when it comes to emissions. Businesses and travellers both need to work on reducing their carbon footprint. It’s promising that more organisations are putting sustainability guidelines and policies into place, but this data shows we still have a long way to go until it becomes a priority,’ said Jeroen van Velzen, SVP Travel & Mobility at Emburse. 

‘Whilst travel managers could strictly enforce their companies’ policies to help achieve carbon goals, this heavy-handed approach risks alienating travelling employees. Educating travellers about the impact of their trips in easy-to-understand terms – like how many houses could be powered by the energy used on a trip – can lead to much higher levels of compliance,’ he continued. ‘Employers need to provide employees with tools to make smarter decisions, and employees need to use that insight to make more environmentally friendly travel plans. We need to move beyond paying lip service to environmental issues and turn good intent into meaningful action.’


More on sustainable travel: 

London-Edinburgh rail success proves grounding flights is possible

‘We have to fly less’: Planes, trains and climate-friendly travel

Now the season is done, Premier League emissions can really kick off

85% of global companies are failing to cut flying emissions

Can aviation ever be truly sustainable?

Image: Rob Wilson



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