Simpler Sustainability: Building an Eco-Strategy into Your Travel Policy

Naomi Hamlin |

From the C-Suite to the front lines, travel leaders are encouraged and pushed to build sustainability into their programmes and the choices they offer. It’s no small order to start measuring and reducing travel’s impact on the planet, but your business doesn’t have to start from scratch when building a policy.

You won’t be alone in your efforts, as nearly 2 in 5 travel managers expect their policies to change in the next 12 months to comply with sustainability goals1. A new template from SAP Concur can serve as a roadmap, whether you’re under a deadline or trying to get out ahead of the challenge.

The template covers the arc of creating a policy, from enlisting input and support, to building knowledge, to considering diversity and inclusion implications, to engaging employees, to the roles of suppliers, data, and reporting. Then, once you’ve built a foundation and framework, it supplies targeted tips for policy areas including air travel, rail and cars, essential trips, accommodations, and events.

Building Sustainability into Your Travel Policy

Get our new template for best practices as you consider and develop a policy to track and lessen the environmental impact of your business.

Download it Here

Getting Started

It’s vital to lay a foundation by understanding and articulating what your sustainability priorities are and how they align with the company’s overall goals and key performance indicators. Make sure senior leadership is familiar with and supportive of your policy initiative.

There is much to learn about regulations and guidelines affecting your programme, so deepen your understanding of such standardisation frameworks as the IFRS, GRI, and others and how certain portions of the GHG Scope 3 apply to travel. With priorities determined, ensure that you capture and see applicable data, create reports for pertinent metrics, and have the technology solutions to support it all.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be part of a travel programme, so those initiatives, along with social responsibility and human rights goals, should be part of a sustainability strategy. They can be a piece of broader duty of care and health and safety management. Examine your suppliers and their sustainability priorities, including whether they mesh with yours in that area and diversity and inclusion and other social goals as well. See if they have appropriate certifications and don’t forget to look at your suppliers’ suppliers, too.

A sustainability policy will be less effective if business travellers and others don’t understand it and recognise their roles in the effort. From the start, engage fellow employees and continue to keep them informed and involved via internal communication channels, meetings, and newsletters.

Getting Specific

Now that you have a foundation, it’s time to define some specifics in the policy.

Trips are a place to begin, and the overarching factor should be whether it’s essential. You should have a preapproval process, limit trips of two days or less, encourage videoconferencing and build stay vs. go forks into the process that help business travellers understand policy and foster sustainability.

Air travel without a doubt contributes greatly to emissions and impact. Use your policy and solutions to direct business travellers to lower-emission flights, encourage direct flights, and go with trains instead of planes wherever possible. Rail not only is less-polluting but also reduces the time business travellers spend driving to departure points, going through security, and getting to meetings. Urge employees to take public transit, but if they must use a car, prioritise electrics, hybrids, or the most-efficient gas-powered vehicles.

Where business travellers stay and do their work matters. Guide them to policy-compliant, greener accommodations within walking distance of their destinations, and avoid luxury hotels and resorts, as their environmental impacts are often higher. Apply some of the same criteria to event facilities, making sure greener lodging is available nearby and are accessible to public transit and trains.

A Route for Going Greener

Developing and implementing a sustainability policy requires much thought and preparation. Download the template to jump-start your policy.

1. SAP Concur Global Travel Managers Report, 2023

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