After two years of reduced travel activities, we are seeing things pick up at a more rapid pace than previously predicted. According to internal American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) data, business travel has returned to levels not seen in the United States since 2019, and we are witnessing a similar trend across the globe. In contrast to sentiments expressed a few months ago, it appears many people are comfortable getting on planes and flying internationally for business. But something that may cause them some hesitation is the impact their trip can have on the environment.

In the last couple of years, sustainability has become a much higher priority, not only for corporations that have set science-based targets but also for employees who have a greater awareness and sensitivity about the environmental effect their travel activities can have.

Fortunately, there is a way to balance both objectives – traveling to interact face-to-face with colleagues, clients, and other connections essential to your business and making choices that reduce harm to our planet.

Here are three areas to focus on to facilitate eco-responsible business trips.

1. The travel policy

Many organizations have adopted sustainability guidelines into their travel policy to promote low-carbon travel and steer travelers toward purchasing decisions that reduce the overall emissions of a business trip. In the policy, you might encourage employees to evaluate the necessity of each trip, use more sustainable modes of transport, and book green hotels.

You also might recommend consolidating trips. For example, if an employee from New York has business in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, it’s more sustainable for them to visit the three cities during one trip instead of taking a transatlantic flight back and forth several times.

It is not enough to simply incorporate greener guidelines in the travel policy. You also need to make sure employees are aware of the recommendations. You can do this by incorporating sustainability messaging via the online booking tool and reminding them of the choices to make during the decision-making process.

Employees want to feel like they are part of the solution, so don’t forget to emphasize the impact they can make by booking more sustainable travel in your communications.

2. Transportation

When calculating the emissions of a business trip, transportation is where things can add up, particularly when it comes to air travel. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, emissions from aircraft account for about 2% of global emissions.

When possible, taking a train is virtually always more sustainable than traveling by plane – often by a lot. According to EcoPassenger, a journey from London to Madrid emits 38 kilograms of CO2 per passenger by train but it’s 118 kilograms by plane. Not only a better choice for the environment, traveling via train also often is the most efficient way to get around when you factor in the commute to and from the airport and the airline security lines.

When flying is inevitable, employees should be encouraged to book nonstop flights on a fuel-efficient aircraft when feasible. Some online booking tools can filter flights by emissions and highlight the most carbon-efficient options, making it easy for travelers to make the greenest choice at the point of sale.

Once in your destination, the bus, subway, or bike (electric or the old-fashioned kind) is a cleaner choice than a car. Travelers who require a rental car should consider booking an electric vehicle, which converts over 77% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels (whereas conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 12%–30%).

3. Accommodations

Staying in an eco-friendly hotel can also reduce the carbon footprint of a business trip. Such hotels minimize emissions by reducing their energy and water consumption, sourcing foods locally, employing greener cleaning products, cutting their use of plastic, etc.

Organizations increasingly are asking accommodations suppliers about their environmental practices during the request for proposal process and opting to partner with hotels that prioritize sustainability. But it’s all for naught if traveling employees do not see that content when making a booking.

That’s why an online booking tool that flags hotel accommodations that meet the company’s sustainability standards and enables travelers to filter search results by eco-friendly hotels is important.

If your company hasn’t identified hotels that meet your environmental standards, you might nudge travelers to select a property that is certified as sustainable by a reputable organization.

Amex GBT recently became a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), an independent organization developing sustainability standards for hotels, to bring more transparency and ease to the process of booking sustainable hotels. We are working together to integrate GSTC flags in our online booking tool, Neo™.

With green hotel badges and carbon emission filters for transportation, Neo is the perfect companion for eco-responsible travel, helping travelers book the most sustainable itinerary in line with the company’s travel policy.

Learn more today!