5 Steps to Launching a Sustainable Travel Program

Many business leaders who aim to reduce their company’s carbon footprint often overlook how little tweaks here and there to their travel program can make a big impact. For many, weaving eco-friendly practices into a travel policy seems like an insurmountable task, but it need not be.

Through its Project ICARUS sustainability program, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is offering an e-learning certificate program that guides travel buyers and suppliers through the process. The fee for the five-week course, which kicks off March 14, 2017, is US$200 for GBTA members and US$675 for nonmembers.

Walking us through the five-step process today is Bernard Harrop, head of sustainability for Project ICARUS, which also offers bespoke advisory services.

Step 1: Align your travel program with the company’s corporate sustainability objectives.

As Harrop points out, more than 90% of corporate companies in the United States and Europe have some sort of sustainability guidelines in place—many of them simply do not cover business travel. So begin by contacting the sustainability director of the entire company to see how you can get the travel program onboard as well.

Step 2: Collect and report CO2 data.

To make your case about the need for adopting more eco-friendly policies, you will need some hard numbers—specifically how many carbon emissions the company is responsible for producing as well as how much money can be saved by implementing sustainable practices.

Customers of American Express Global Business Travel can use our GREEN INSIGHTS analytics program to calculate their company’s carbon footprint. You also may use GBTA’s Sustainability Self-Assessment Tool to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a travel program.

Once you have a clear picture of your business’ carbon footprint, it will be easy to spot which areas you can reduce C02 emissions from.

Step 3: Define your goals and objectives.

Harrop says this usually is the biggest challenge: making decisions about where you want the company to go and specific targets to hit. Will it be to reduce carbon emissions by 5% within the first year? Or do you want to push it to 10 or 15%? The answer lies in who is driving the change—whether it is a lone travel manager or a board of directors.

While a single travel manager cannot make sweeping changes at a company all on their own, those who do a good job of compiling the numbers from Step 2 will have an easier time making their case and getting the green light from above.

No matter who is the impetus behind the push, Harrop recommends that when creating a CO2 reduction program that you start with the end in mind and follow a process that delivers measurable and achievable results.

Step 4: Create a plan to minimize emissions.

As Harrop explains, there are some simple measures a company can take to reduce its carbon footprint immediately, but then more creative solutions may be required.

“This is not about stopping travel,” he says. “This is about a sensible approach to what you’ve always done.”

Easy-to-implement tweaks may include booking green hotels or renting smaller, fuel-efficient cars.

Step 5: Implement the program and engage employees.

“In order to make a program work,” Harrop says, “a company has to build a network within their organization to support it.”

He advises electing some “travel champions” by division, region, or office who are passionate about the cause and can help with program implementation.

It will take some time and effort, he says, but “once you start to see results, you will get more and more support.”

Finally, he says, remember the three P’s when designing a program: people, planet, and profit.

“If you get the balance between all three of those, you’ve got yourself a very good travel program,” he concludes.