Our clients have expressed a growing interest in how they can reduce the carbon footprint of their travel program, so we have put together the steps below to help travel managers achieve this goal. For much more on how you can jumpstart a sustainable travel program, check out our white paper “Green Travel: Approach to Integrating Sustainability in Business Travel” at the end of this post.

1. Calculate your travel program’s carbon footprint

When you’re getting started on a sustainable travel program, the first step is to audit your travel activities and establish a baseline. Then you can identify opportunities for reducing your footprint and implementing carbon neutrality initiatives. Through American Express Global Business Travel’s business intelligence solutions, we can provide you with emissions data for your air, rail, and car as well as ongoing reporting to track your progress. Your travelers also can view and compare the carbon emissions of their flight and ground transportation options on our online booking tool, Neo™, before making their reservations.  

2. Support suppliers that support the environment

When sourcing suppliers, inquire about their sustainability practices or do your own research. When evaluating air carriers, look at the age of the carrier’s fleet (older aircraft tend to be less fuel-efficient) and if they are using low-emissions planes and/or contributing to offsetting programs. Partner with hotels that have an environmental certification from programs like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green Key Global, and Green Globe. Typically, properties with these credentials feature flow-restrictive showerheads, low-flow toilets, and energy-efficient lighting and linen programs.

3. Encourage train travel for shorter distances

According to a report by Vox, short flights produce a larger amount of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger compared to longer routes. So if your travelers don’t need to go far, nudge them to take the train instead. It can really make a difference. According to data pulled from EcoPassenger, a journey from London to Brussels emits about 18 pounds of CO2 per passenger by train. For the same route by airplane, it emits 260 pounds. Even though the train takes about two hours longer, when you factor the time getting to the airport and clearing security, going by rail actually may be the better option timewise.

4. Incentivize travelers to fly economy

Your travel policy may allow employees to purchase a business class seat on certain flights, but it is greener to fly economy, as explained in this BBC report. For those travelers who wish to make a greener seat selection and forgo the more luxurious business cabin, you may want to offer them an incentive. It likely will not cost the company extra since you will be avoiding the exorbitant cost of business.

5. Let travelers fly direct

Because of the large source of CO2 emissions and fuel consumed during takeoffs and landings, the greener option when flying is to take a direct flight. Yes, this sometimes means a higher airfare than a connecting flight, but it also will mean less money that needs to be spent on a carbon-offsetting program if your company is involved with one. Speaking of which…

6. Offset the travel program’s carbon emissions

After calculating how many CO2 emissions your travelers are responsible for (which we can help you do), consider donating the monetary amount to any number of organizations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At American Express Global Business Travel, we offset our travel program by purchasing carbon credits to support the Envira Amazonia Project. In 2019, we began offsetting 100% of our business travel activities.

7. Promote sustainable ground transportation options

Encourage travelers to share taxi rides when traveling together and to take public transportation when they are not. Our booking tool, Neo, makes it easier for them to map out their route since it displays public transportation options in more than 50 countries, including timetables and names of stops. If travelers do need to rely on a rental car to get around, negotiate with car suppliers for a discount on their electric and hybrid models.

8. Work with us on greener meetings

Our American Express Meetings & Events team can help you identify ways to make your meetings more sustainable. In addition to recommending locations and transport strategies that minimize travel-related greenhouse gas emissions, we can help you reduce indirect emissions by sourcing energy-efficient hotels and implementing other sustainable practices (e.g., eliminating water bottles from meetings, utilizing reusable and electronic signage, etc.). Contact us to learn more.

9. Show travelers that it’s easy to be green

Travelers may not realize how much their small actions can add up. For instance, as we explain in the “Green Travel” white paper, a traveler reusing their towels 10 times during their hotel stays equates to the amount of carbon a tree removes from the atmosphere in a year. Make them aware of the simple ways they can become a greener traveler by sending them this Atlas article.

10. Get targeted guidance on transforming your program

Our Global Business Consulting team works one-on-one with clients to craft policies that fit their corporate culture and raise environmental awareness to achieve emissions reduction goals. We then can assist with the full transformation, from building a business case and helping to secure stakeholder buy-in to leading change management initiatives to get travelers to embrace the new policy. To get started, contact your client manager.

To download the “Green Travel” white paper, fill out the form below.

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