5 steps to reducing the environmental impact of business travel

5 min read

Whether you’re obliged to report on your carbon emissions to keep the Government informed of your performance or helping the environment is one of your company’s values, most businesses today have an interest in reducing the impact their operation has on the environment. The business travel industry is also having to come up with new and innovative ways to increase awareness of the environmental impact of travel, whilst also coming up with technological innovations to reduce its impact.

Business Travel can represent 50% or more of an organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and as such, seems like a good place to start if you’re interested in reducing them. 

Here are 5 steps to minimise the impact your business travel has on the environment…

#1 Understand and analyse how business travel contributes to your environmental impact

If you’re working with a travel management company, they should provide you with comprehensive CO2 emission reports for air, rail and hotel stays. Check that they meet Defra conversion requirements and also adhere to the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI). HCMI is an industry-approved methodology to calculate carbon emissions for hotels that was introduced because hotel CO2 measurements have traditionally been difficult to track. The HCMI methodology provides hotels with a carbon footprint of an occupied room per day and an area of meeting space per hour. The methodology is designed to be applied by any hotel around the world regardless of size or type of amenities offered.

Once you have management information  showing you what your carbon emissions are, you can start to analyse this data to see where improvements can be made. Your travel management company account manager should be able to help you with this so take advantage of their experience to give you a head start.

#2 Consider the environmental cost of travel when choosing how to travel

The default for most traveller bookers/travellers is either, which option is the cheapest or which option is the fastest, but looking at the CO2 emissions of each option can make you see things differently. And it’s not just the environmental benefits that make some options better than others, although a flight may be shorter that the train journey, in some cases the door to door travel time can be much longer when you factor in security and time at the airport for example.

Here’s an example:

A flight from London to Edinburgh is 2.10 hours total journey time and produces 75.41kg CO2, yet the equivalent train journey has a total journey time of  4.25 hours and only produces 12kg CO2. So choosing the option that’s kinder to environment not only saves 63.41kg of CO2, but only takes 15 minutes more travel time which may be your only opportunity for a break on a hectic day.

Now of course, choosing the most environmentally friendly option may not be possible at all times, but when it’s a win/win, it seems like a no brainer.

Lots of travel management companies display the CO2 emissions of journey options within their online booking tools so travellers and bookers can assess the environmental impact of their trip before they book. Check with your business travel agent to see if they offer this functionality.

#3 Map hotel spend by postal code area rather than just city level for cities where spend exceeds 200 room nights.

Lots of people focus on key locations as cities, but drilling further into this data will help you spot trends that you can capitalise on. You’ll be able to negotiate hotel rate programmes with preferred properties whose locations are much more closely matched to the needs of the office or project location, thus avoiding additional transport costs. This will lower the overall cost to stay and have a positive impact on the environment by reducing the travel to site cost from the hotel.

#4 Educate your employees on your environmental targets and ways they can get involved

Company wide targets are always much harder to achieve when people don’t understand how their own actions can support the overall goal. Educate your travellers on what the organisation is trying to achieve and the role they play in making it happen. Your travel management company should be able to help you in keeping your travellers informed on things they can do to reduce the environmental impact of their travel. This could be taking a train instead of flying where appropriate or simply not travelling at all. For example, some companies encourage the use of video conferencing facilities, Skype and Google Hangouts instead of meeting in person, if you want to promote initiatives such as these within your organisation, ask your travel management company to remind your travellers and bookers throughout the booking process.

#5) Consider offsetting your carbon emissions

Carbon offsetting schemes are widely used throughout the UK and beyond, with organisations such as Natural Capital Partners that offer customers the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions. For a small cost, carbon offsetting give organisations an immediate, measurable and cost-effective way to cut emissions and support essential projects that wouldn’t otherwise happen. Most corporate travel agencies can automate carbon offsetting as part of your business travel programme, alternatively you can use the data they provide to include business travel emissions as part of your overall carbon offsetting strategy.