The Evolution of Business Travel and it's Environmental Impact

Matt Clementson, Head of Commercial, SAP Concur UKI |

How travel and expense platforms deliver more accurate, detailed, and real-time data that helps both private and public sector organisations find efficiencies – while also producing sustainability metrics to help power the journey to net zero.

In today’s digitally powered world where we have greater access than ever before to detailed and granular data and insights, the old adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure has never been truer.

Data and insights have the potential to do far more than just help organisations better manage existing projects, processes, and progress – they can help both public and private sector organisations tackle the big issues on their agendas.

The key, however, is having the right data, presented in a digestible and manageable way, at your fingertips, in real time – giving you the ability to make informed decisions based on true and up-to-date insights.

A working example

A prime example of how access to the right data and insights can help tackle a major issue – and one that is rising rapidly up the boardroom agenda – is travel.

Travel and expense data insights can help public sector organisations become more efficient – ensuring that employees are travelling only when necessary or essential, and that staff are travelling by the fastest or most efficient means of transport given where they are going. That can create huge time savings – and help improve staff morale and wellbeing.

It can also make organisations more cost-effective – ensuring employees are using the most cost-effective means of transport, assessing the cost of a train or a flight versus mileage cost, for example, and even helping secure less expense fares It can also help organisations better manage their fleet – enabling them to compare the cost of fleet vehicles versus use of public transport or personal vehicles.

In short, travel insights lead to informed decision-making that can in turn lead to a change in how businesses apply travel policies – whether they are looking to have their teams make fewer flights, use more or less trains, or to utilise more video conferencing facilities versus physical meetings.

Tackling the bigger issues

However, data and insights can also help tackle a far bigger issue on organisations’ agendas: sustainability and environmental impact.

The recent COP2 meeting held in November 2023, highlighted more than ever the pressure on all organisations – both public and private sectors – to tackle their carbon emissions and reduce the impact of their travel on the climate. 1

The gathering of world leaders highlighted then, that the UK is now only seven years away from its 2030 commitment to cut emissions by 68 per cent – and that efforts must continue apace to keep on track for this interim target to net-zero.

Measuring your travel use is the first step in that process – and travel data with insights can have a huge impact on organisations’ ability to meet the challenge.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) is a great example of one public sector organisation already using data and insights to make an impact in this area.

Sustainability is a huge focus for the authority, and thanks to the accurate travel data on its ‘grey fleet’ personal vehicles being used for business purposes, it has been able to make adjustments to the cost of staff travel and also monitor its carbon footprint much more closely.

We recently had a by-liner published within Business Government where Barnsley MBC's Service Director for Customers, Information and Digital Services, David Robinson said "We utilised this data to help us to encourage our employees to think more sustainably when it comes to travel, opt-in for public transport over personal vehicles, where possible to reduce their emissions. 

“For example, we have been gradually moving our 300 strong council fleet to more energy, efficient electric vehicles, such as our vans and bin wagons. Although sustainable practices are key in our eyes, and always have been, our accurate expense data certainly has helped play a big part in reducing our carbon emissions.”

David also added that the project has been a hit with staff – not least because it is giving them back valuable time to focus on their core objectives.

“More staff have been opting for public transport over their own personal vehicle, which all adds up to a smaller carbon footprint for us,” he explained. “With our staff’s commitment, we imagine this positive trend will continue, particularly as the UK as a whole, adapt to a possible net zero future.”

The evolution of travel

The way public sector organisations view and manage travel is changing – and data insights can not only help those organisations become more efficient and save money but can also help them on their journey to reducing carbon emissions.

It is with this in mind that we at SAP Concur are evolving our own travel platform to ensure it meets these needs.

The re-platformed Concur Travel Online Booking Tool features a new, consumer-like user experience, robust content, and smart solutions.  It aims to make the people involved in business travel at your company better informed and more effective.

It gives employees the experiences they deserve, through an enhanced, consumer-like user experience that streamlines processes for faster booking and checkout.  It also reduces risk and increases policy compliance, enabling organisations to embed their own policies to increase online adoption and compliance.  And it enhances sustainable progress, providing information and guidance to your business travellers about sustainable itinerary options, so they can make informed choices as they book trips, and you can create a more sustainable travel programme.

Informed” is the key word here.  Because it’s only by being informed that we can make impactful decisions that improve both our own organisations, and the wider world.

If you would like to know what SAP Concur are doing within the Sustainability space, particularly Travel, please check out our eBook 5 Ways to Build Sustainability into your Travel Programme, or contact us to speak with one of our specialists.



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