Green Miles: Making Business Travel Sustainable

NEW YORK – In the ever-changing world of travel, something exciting is happening. Travelers today aren’t just explorers; they’re becoming protectors of our planet. The buzz around climate change is pushing this shift, and a recent McKinsey survey shows that 85 percent of global travelers are willing to pay 2 percent extra for carbon-neutral flights—a big step towards responsible travel.

An EY 2022 CEO Outlook Survey claimed that India has shifted towards sustainable strategies and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies across industries. Along with many emission reduction targets, sustainable business travel has also joined the conversation.” ESG has become a board-level priority for nearly all organizations. This is especially considering India’s ambitious goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2070. Today, organizations are investing in initiatives enabling them to track, reduce, and report carbon footprint,” says Manoj Karanth, Vice President and Global Head at LTI Mindtree, a global technology consultancy company.

Regardless, the “say-do” gap is significant for both the public and the corporates. For those spearheading the net zero path in India, sustainability is a watershed for every business strategy. Grasim Industries of Aditya Birla Group ranked number one in 2021 for compliance with sustainable development goals (SDGs). It has also been monitoring its greenhouse gas emissions every financial year.

Attention To Data Collection

Data collection is at the heart of sustainable business travel. As employee mental health becomes essential, many Silicon Valley companies are organizing yoga retreats for their teams. However, keeping track of such minuscule data can be challenging. For this reason, a new consultation business is on the rise that helps track greenhouse gas emissions. Companies can now outsource the monitoring and management of emissions. Recently, travel company Thomas Cook (India) Ltd partnered with LTI Mindtree for an initiative called “Green Carpet” for traveling sustainably.

“For most businesses in the services space, the bulk of the Scope 3 emissions is related to business travel. With the domain depth of Thomas Cook, SOTC and LTI Mindtree, we were ideally placed to address this need. This initiative aims to streamline travel-related data collection, analysis, and reporting,” says Karanth.

Diversify Travel Destinations

As they say, the road less traveled can yield fresh discoveries. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who stayed at many remote ashrams in India, supposedly learned a lot from the local community as a person and as a business professional. Diversification isn’t just a strategy; it’s a responsibility. Encouraging travelers to visit lesser-known places helps local economies and lessens the impact on the environment. So, when it comes to choosing an offsite destination for a team or a corporate retreat, keep diversification in mind.

Making Mobility Sustainable

Sustainable mobility is no longer limited to green aviation. Electric vehicles and cruises with clean fuel sources are becoming popular, marking a shift towards eco-conscious travel choices. Companies can also opt for sustainable cruises around the world. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reports that 15 percent of newly launched cruise ships will be able to use clean fuel sources such as hydrogen fuel cells or electric batteries in the next five years. The clean fuel options also change from place to place. For instance, many buses in Washington, D.C., have zero emissions.

Net-Zero Travel Partners

Amid the ongoing climate change discourse, the conversation around business travel is changing, too. “We understand and recognize the significance of undertaking proactive actions to mitigate any detrimental consequences we may have on the environment. We aim to promote a harmonious and sustainable relationship with the ecosystem,” says Amit Madhan, President and Group Head of Technology at ESG, Thomas Cook (India) Limited. Today, many travel partners can facilitate sustainable packages.

For instance, in 2021, Booking Holding, the world’s biggest online travel company, announced sustainability badges on its platform. Over 1,00,000 accommodation listings, such as hotels and bed-and-breakfast providers, have been awarded this badge. This badge assures users that a third party has thoroughly evaluated the property for its sustainable practices. Renewable energy systems, recycled furnishings, reusable water bottles, and biodegradable waste management are a few sustainable practices that hotels employ to be eco-friendly.

Set Long-Term Goals

It is easy to lose track of sustainable initiatives after early enthusiasm subsides, which is why systems should follow intentions. Therefore, a comprehensive sustainable travel policy is needed, outlining transportation, accommodation, and waste reduction guidelines.

“Companies can implement sustainable business travel by building a comprehensive sustainable travel policy. The policy should prioritize sustainability and outline guidelines for employees. It should include the criteria for selecting transportation modes, accommodation options, and procedures for reducing waste and conserving resources during travel,” says Ekta Kumar, former CSR head of Shell India and Confederation of Indian Industry sustainability assessor.

Businesses across the world are jumping on the bandwagon of sustainability by putting in place various measures for their workforce. With more initiatives like green tourism, responsible tourism, and ecotourism picking up pace recently, big organizations are doing their bit to track possible greenhouse gas emissions reduction by employing specialized tools. In the coming years as well, valuable policy tools will enable policymakers and firms to demonstrate the economic implications of climate change mitigation, leading hopefully to clean, lean, and truly green getaways.

Source: Outlook Traveller