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Work Travel Published: 22nd September 2023

Your Guide to Sustainable Business Travel

As we enter the final decade before the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) deadline, it's crucial to consider how sustainable business travel can contribute to these global objectives. 

Even before the pandemic disrupted our lives, sustainable travel was a hot topic in the business world, and pressure to achieve the SDGs, particularly those related to climate change and environmental impact, remains high. 

As business travel resumes post-pandemic, there are several ways your company can prioritise sustainability in its travel practices. This post will look at some of these and provide guidance on how to ensure you incorporate sustainability into your business travel practices. 


The Urgency of Sustainable Business Travel


Environmental Impact

Frequent business travel, while essential for many companies, has a significant impact on the environment whether we like it or not. The transportation sector is a major contributor to carbon emissions, with air travel being the prominent offender. The carbon footprint of each business trip can accumulate rapidly, exacerbating climate change and detracting from SDGs. 

As business professionals, it's imperative to recognise the environmental impact of our travel and take the necessary steps to help mitigate it or at least significantly reduce the impact we have.


Corporate Responsibility

Businesses play a pivotal role in driving sustainable practices, including travel-related ones. Sustainable business travel is not only about individual choices but also about corporate responsibility. Companies must take the lead in setting the tone for sustainable travel and implementing measures that reduce their carbon footprint. 


Practical Steps for Sustainable Business Travel


Choose Green Transportation

One of the fundamental ways to reduce the environmental impact of business travel is by opting for green transportation alternatives. Consider taking trains instead of planes for shorter journeys. Trains have a significantly lower carbon footprint per passenger mile than flights, making them a more sustainable choice. 

Additionally, companies can encourage employees to use electric vehicles or hybrid cars when renting vehicles during their trips. You can also take advantage of corporate deals and ask that rental companies only rent eco-friendly cars to your company. By incorporating these alternatives into your travel policy, you can make a positive impact on both the global and local environment.


Eco-Friendly Accommodations

Selecting accommodations that practise environmental responsibility is another crucial aspect of sustainable business travel. When booking hotels or serviced apartments, look for establishments that prioritise sustainability. Many hotels have implemented practices such as reducing water and energy consumption, utilising renewable energy sources, and minimising waste. By supporting these eco-conscious accommodations, your company can contribute to sustainable tourism and reduce its environmental footprint.


Digital Over Physical

In the digital age, there's no excuse for excessive paper usage during business travel. Encourage your employees to embrace digital alternatives for travel documents, such as boarding passes, booking confirmations, and itineraries. Not only does this reduce paper waste, but it also enhances efficiency. 

By minimising physical waste like printouts and brochures, your company can greatly improve their sustainable practices and contribute positively to global sustainability and environmental goals.


Reduce Plastic Waste

Single-use plastics are a major environmental concern. Encourage employees to carry reusable water bottles to minimise plastic waste. Whether at the office or during business trips, refilling reusable bottles at water fountains is an effective way to reduce plastic consumption. 

Additionally, avoid single-use plastic cutlery and bring your own reusable utensils, which can be carried through airport security and disposed of in recycling bins. Your company can significantly reduce its plastic footprint by taking these simple steps.


Implement Sustainable Transportation

Consider incorporating sustainable transportation options into your business travel policy. Car-sharing apps and public transport services can be valuable alternatives to reduce carbon emissions. Carpooling, especially with electric or hybrid vehicles, can greatly reduce negative environmental impacts. Public transportation not only reduces emissions but can also help alleviate traffic congestion, promoting fuel efficiency.


Take the Scenic Route by Train

Rail travel offers a more environmentally friendly option than flights for certain routes. Trains emit substantially less carbon per passenger mile compared to aeroplanes. If the journey allows for it and there are no time constraints, taking a train can be an enjoyable way to travel while minimising your carbon footprint. Encouraging employees to explore this travel option can align with your commitment to sustainable business travel.


Embrace Local Cuisine

Support local communities and businesses by embracing what is on offer locally. Choose restaurants that source their produce locally, reducing food miles and supporting small-scale agriculture. By dining at locally-owned establishments, your company can contribute to preserving farmland and reducing the environmental impact of food consumption. 

Responsible travel encompasses more than just transportation and accommodation—it extends to supporting local economies and sustainable food practices.



Strategic Choices for Long-Term Impact


Carbon Offsetting

To address the emissions generated by business travel, consider participating in carbon offset programs. These initiatives enable you to balance your carbon emissions by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. 

By offsetting your travel-related carbon footprint, your company can actively contribute to climate impact mitigation efforts. Projects like maintaining forests, generating clean energy, and restoring wetlands not only combat climate change but also benefit communities and wildlife.


Sustainable Partnerships

Collaboration with vendors who share your sustainability goals is essential. Select partners and suppliers who prioritise eco-friendly practices and are committed to reducing their environmental impact. 

By fostering sustainable partnerships, your company can create a ripple effect, inspiring others in the business world to adopt similar practices. Together, you can amplify the positive effects of sustainable business travel.



Policies and Training


Implementing Company-wide Policies

Developing and implementing corporate policies on sustainable travel is a crucial step. These policies provide a framework for employees to make responsible choices during business travel. 

When you define clear expectations and objectives in your policy, you help to ensure that sustainability remains a priority. Consider creating incentives to reward employees who adhere to the policy and celebrate their commitment to sustainable travel. 

By incorporating sustainable practices into your company's travel policy, you make your commitment to sustainable practices more official. Start by developing clear targets and guidelines for a "green business travel policy" that encourages employees to make environmentally responsible choices. By formalising your commitment to sustainability, your organisation can foster a culture of responsible business travel.


Staff Training

Educating your staff about the importance of sustainable travel is vital. Conduct training sessions to raise awareness about the environmental impact of business travel and provide practical guidance on making eco-conscious choices. Empowering your employees with knowledge and tools to practise sustainability during their trips can lead to more conscientious travel behaviours.


Measuring the Impact

Tracking and reporting the outcomes of company travel and improving them to be more sustainable is essential. By measuring the impact of current practices and your efforts in instilling greener options, you can identify areas for improvement and refine your sustainable travel strategy. As regulatory requirements for business travel emissions disclosure increase, having a comprehensive understanding of your carbon footprint will become more important than ever, especially in the upcoming years. 

Additionally, tracking individual employees' carbon footprints can incentivise responsible travel choices and enable you to recognise and reward those who contribute to sustainability goals.


Sustainable business travel is not just a trend or something to make your company look appealing to employees. It's become an urgent necessity in today's corporate landscape. Businesses have a critical role to play in mitigating the environmental impact of their travel activities. 

Companies can make a meaningful difference by choosing green transportation, eco-friendly accommodations, digital over physical documents, and embracing other sustainable practices. 

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