Key Takeaways From the Navan Future Forum on Sustainability in the Business Travel Industry

Key Takeaways From the Navan Future Forum on Sustainability in the Business Travel Industry

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Theresa Sieve

15 Apr 2024
4 minute read
An image from the Navan Future Forum event on sustainability in business travel

An exciting speaker line-up, numerous sustainability-conscious guests, and valuable discussions in a casual setting. These are the impressions of the first Navan Future Forum, which took place in Berlin on April 11, 2024. 

According to Business Travel News Europe’s latest travel manager survey, two-thirds of travel managers are giving more focus to business travel sustainability. 

All the more reason for Navan to design this half-day conference addressing the topics of sustainability and environmental awareness in the business travel sector. These are the key takeaways.

Unified Reporting Standards 

In light of the Corporate Sustainability Directive (CSRD), many companies in Europe will already have to report on CO2 emissions for business travel for financial year 2024, among other things. 

This presents them with two challenges:

  • There is no or insufficient data available on the emissions associated with travel. 
  • There are no uniform standards for measuring CO₂ emissions. Different providers may use different standards, which distorts the data and makes it almost impossible to measure progress in this area.

Therefore, the experts in the panel discussion were unanimously in favor of establishing uniform reporting standards. 

"Corporate travel isn't going away. Trends and statistics show that the number of business trips is increasing. But how can we ensure that the various players in the industry agree on consistent standards? By proactively making customers aware that something needs to change. They shouldn't be too patient," said Marcus Jansa, HWS Commercial Leader & ESG ambassador at Hilton.

Utilizing the Full Potential of Technology

There are already technical ways to optimize outdated processes in business travel management, particularly in the area of reporting. This applies to the documentation of travel costs and expenses as well as the tracking of a trip's carbon footprint. 

A modern business travel solution such as Navan enables companies to centralize all this data in one place. Real-time data transparency is the basis for accurate reporting and therefore the key to compliance with the CSRD. 

Regulations and capitalism as drivers of innovation 

Contrary to common conceptions, regulations can be true drivers of innovation. If legal requirements lead to gaps in the market, these can be filled with clever business ideas. 

The law of capitalism applies: if it is a competitive advantage to operate in a particularly environmentally conscious manner or to develop new products, this opportunity is quickly utilized.

"We need to find the incentives where the mechanisms of capitalism accelerate innovation. That's why we need a technology-first approach that makes traveling truly emission-free," said Ivor van Dartel, Co-founder at VÆRIDION.

Eco-Conscious Business Travel — Today

Various simple measures can reduce the environmental impact of business and private travel today.

At the Hilton Group, for example, guests can decide for themselves when their towels should be changed. And the menu now mainly features regional and seasonal products that cause less CO₂ emissions.

The aviation industry is also making the switch. For example, the Lufthansa Group offers so-called Green Fares. This uses sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which helps to reduce emissions from air travel. 

Michael Nau, Director Sales & Sustainability at Lufthansa Group, commented: "In the end, everything depends on the price. However, we are seeing increasing demand for our Green Fares, particularly in the B2B sector." 

Conclusion: The Change is Now

Driven by new legal guidelines, but also by social changes, environmental awareness has become significantly more important in recent years. 

Lubomila Jordanova, founder of Plan A and member of the supervisory boards of numerous well-known companies such as BMW and Chloé, has observed this development: "In 2017, sustainability was still a very niche topic. Responsibility was often shifted to politics. This still happens today, but the legal situation is different. Supervisory boards and management levels want to future-proof their businesses. There is no way around more environmentally conscious processes."

In addition to the CSRD, other directives such as the CSDD (EU Supply Chain Directive) and the EU climate protection package Fit for 2025 will come into effect in the near future. Dr Martin Balas, CEO of sustainability consultancy reCET, takes a positive view of this: "Companies should not see the EU directives as a problem, but as an opportunity. If measures are implemented sensibly and thoughtfully, companies can benefit massively from them."

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