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Doing the responsible thing for the environment comes in a lot of forms. Sustainability criteria are increasingly a major purchasing consideration for businesses with environmental impact as part of their corporate responsibility priorities. There are important changes to company travel policies that can benefit both the budget and the environment.

As a travel manager, how can you be a strategic part of those conversations? How can you add value by increasing your travel program’s sustainability efforts? Here are some opportunities that you can add to the discussion.

Adjustments to your travel policy can support sustainability initiatives. Gabe Rizzi, President of Travel Leaders Corporate notes, “Environmentally responsible travel policies can be a win-win. More and more employees are making environmentally conscious decisions regarding their travel purchases. Many of these sustainability measures can reduce expenses and support broader corporate initiatives and may even provide you with a competitive advantage.”

Simple Solutions

Consider an airfare policy change that allows for more direct flights. Connecting flights may sometimes be a bit more economical, but in terms of CO2 emissions, direct flights are the better choice. Most emissions occur during take-off and landing, so it’s best to keep those to a minimum.

Rail travel is a great alternative to flying – especially along the east coast. Train trips results in an average of 7x fewer emissions than a similar plane trip. When flight delays are considered, it’s likely that the reliability of a train will get your travelers home from a business trip in time for family dinner, rather than killing time in the LaGuardia food court. In addition, train stations are generally more centrally located in a city’s business district, which saves both the environmental and financial cost of a long taxi ride from a suburban airport.

Ground transportation offers many opportunities to go green. You could adjust the travel policy that offers reimbursement for only economy or compact cars for solo travelers. Smaller cars use less gas and emit less pollution, making it the right choice for a single traveler. Require or incentivize your staff use public transit options in cities with a direct route downtown from the airport.

Select Green Vendors

When it comes to selecting vendors and suppliers, consider their sustainability practices. When you’re sourcing air travel, consider the age of their fleet and if the carrier flies lower-emission aircraft. Hotels with a lower carbon footprint are a good choice. Check out this website with a hotel footprinting tool to evaluate carbon emissions during your sourcing phase. Many large chains tout their green certifications and are involved in human rights and fair labor practices initiatives. When crafting a ground transportation policy, find out which car rental companies offer hybrid vehicles. Travel policy adjustments could include avoiding the ‘free upgrade’ to a larger car that’s less environmentally friendly.

Reduce Meeting & Event Waste

Sustainable events are becoming more prevalent as awareness has increased. Meetings of all sizes can produce a lot of waste, not to mention the carbon footprint of gathering all of the attendees. Practices like donating leftover materials or purchasing generic materials that can be reused for multiple events can take your meeting in a more sustainable direction. Trends like water bottle filling stations and compostable food containers can help combat food waste. Many venues will arrange to donate uneaten food to local area food banks or homeless shelters.

Companies who want to take environmental awareness even further could incorporate an impact day, which includes an afternoon of trash pick-up at a local park or a stream clean-up. Team-building activities like these can be a great networking opportunity among attendees, while also giving back to the host city.

Meeting planners should consider these criteria when booking a venue:

  • Is public transportation available?
  • Do you source locally grown food?
  • What percent of your property’s waste is recycled?
  • Have you moved into LED lighting and energy-efficient HVAC equipment?

Paperless Events

Put your agenda, speaker bios, schedules and maps online. Developing and promoting a digital event app can help reduce the need for printed materials. An app can be updated in real time which means that all attendees have the latest information. Ditch the plastic nametags by ordering reusable metal nameplates that will last for years.

Your contribution to sustainable business travel practices is worth the effort. Including sustainable tactics like these into your travel program can improve your company’s carbon footprint and be a source of pride for your staff.

Ready to speak with a corporate travel expert about how you can better manage your business travel? Get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation that can help lower airfare costs and get some added-value perks for your travel spending.