How to make corporate travel sustainable

Written on 16 October 2020

Sustainability is a hot topic in the tourism industry. Traveling is one of the least sustainable human activities, consuming an enormous amount of resources, and producing significant greenhouse gas emissions. And this is not just about tourism: all branches of the industry are involved. Corporate travel, for instance, has come under scrutiny recently for its lack of sustainability, motivated by the fact that those investing in it often choose to focus on comfort over environmental concerns. This has something to do with budgeting and status: corporate travel tends to be about exclusivity, often to the detriment of sustainability. What can be done to make corporate travel sustainable? Here are a few simple tips for companies of all sizes.

Making corporate travel entirely sustainable is (almost) impossible

This is the first great realisation we have to face: complete sustainability is a myth. But if we cannot make corporate travel sustainable, how can we hope to do our part to protect the environment? Do we have to give up business travel altogether? The answer is no, but being aware of the implications will help us find alternative solutions. Among the most popular at the moment are CO2 offsetting plans. Sites that offer this type of program normally have simple “emission calculators” that, depending on the characteristics of the trip, can give an approximate estimate of its carbon footprint. Once this approximate figure has been established, the site offers a series of environmentally friendly projects in which to invest in order to offset the impact created by the trip (for instance, you can invest in reforestation plans or non-renewable energy conversion programmes).

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Choose alternative transportation and reducing air travel

Once you accept that the best way to make corporate travel sustainable is to avoid it, it’s worth worrying about how to minimise the damage when travelling for work becomes inevitable. Transportation is a major issue, of course. Travelling by air is by far the most polluting choice, especially on long journeys. For this reason, it is advisable to choose relatively close-by destinations and to consider, when possible, alternative modes of transport, such as high-speed trains. On the other hand, the lockdown has taught us that a lot can be done by connecting with your distant partners via Skype or Zoom, with significant advantages not only in terms of sustainability but also in terms of budget management, which results in the company being able to reinvest in other areas of its business.

Choose certified sustainable facilities

Everyone likes to travel for work and find themselves, at the end of a long day, in a beautiful hotel room. However, those companies that are really interested in making corporate travel sustainable should look for accommodation with a solid certification of sustainability – which, more often than not, offer the same level of comfort as traditional hotels. Often these facilities adopt policies to reduce the use of detergents and rely on local food producers to ensure zero kilometre cuisine that is healthier, more sustainable, and tastier than that normally found in hotels and restaurants. Many facilities are also aiming for autonomy and energy optimisation, for instance by equipping themselves with solar panels for clean energy.