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How to make business travel more sustainable

5 ways to make business travel more sustainable

Ben Custance

27 Feb 2024
4 minute read
Navan Travel Leaders Connect event on business travel sustainability

These days, sustainability is a guiding principle for many companies around the world, shaping their decisions and actions as they target a greener future. At Navan’s recent Travel Leaders Connect event in London, we heard from industry experts at the likes of Trainline and United Airlines, who spoke about five key sustainability challenges facing the industry today — and the solutions to overcome them.

1. Reporting emissions accurately

Creating accurate emissions reports is challenging for many organisations. With no single source of truth for emissions reporting — different sources using different metrics and calculations — it’s often difficult for companies to measure their carbon footprint accurately, hindering their ability to track overall sustainability progress.

The solution: Standardise reporting

Companies that standardise how they measure emissions for each business travel area, including flights, trains, car rentals, and hotels, get the most detailed and actionable insights, and can measure sustainability progress more accurately.

Some TMCs, like Navan, build consistent carbon reporting directly into their platform, making it easy for companies to track their entire travel emissions and build comprehensive data reports in one centralised dashboard.

2. Making smarter air travel choices

It can be hard to identify lower emitting flight options when booking travel on some platforms, especially when using legacy providers, making it challenging to get suitable emissions data or make smart sustainability decisions. Some airlines, meanwhile, are further ahead in championing greener air travel than others.

The solution: Find ways to fly greener

Prioritise airlines with established sustainability initiatives in place. For example, United Airlines has set itself the target of carbon neutrality by 2050 and uses its United Airlines Ventures fund to invest in companies innovating new sustainability technologies and solutions, while Lufthansa has a Green Fares offering which invests in carbon reduction and offsetting projects.

Use your company travel policy to promote these options as well as define which seating class employees can book — economy class seats are responsible for less emissions than business class seats, for example. With modern TMCs like Navan, you can define short-, medium-, and long-haul flights per traveller group, and set maximum booking classes for each. Where possible, look at aircraft models when booking a flight — newer aircraft tend to emit less. When considering new travel providers, look out for whether they have SAF partnerships in place.

3. Overcoming traveller misconceptions

Sometimes, travellers aren’t fully aware of the benefits of more sustainable transport types, or they have an opinion that’s hard to shake. For example, when booking a trip, travellers often book flights by default, disregarding alternative transport options which might be greener.

The solution: Educate employees

Take the time to shift perceptions by educating employees on the benefits of lower-emitting transport options. From door to door, for example, it can be as fast to travel by train as it is to travel by plane and all of the time that entails. Launch an internal programme to educate employees about travelling more sustainably, giving them actionable tips for choosing greener options at each stage of the booking process. For best results, use your senior leadership team to communicate this initiative.

By providing information about the carbon impact of different travel options, highlighting the benefits of sustainable alternatives, and incentivising employees to take more sustainable options where possible, companies can empower employees to make more environmentally conscious travel choices. In a sign of the growing appetite for train travel, Navan saw rail bookings increase by 28% YoY from a pre-Covid cohort of 100 EU-based customers (2022–2023).

4. Choosing the right travel provider

A company’s sustainability progress is partly dependent on the capabilities of its travel provider. A legacy platform, with limited data insights and clunky reporting, is less effective than a modern platform which considers the concerns of modern companies and innovates to meet their needs.

The solution: Embrace a tech-led solution

Partnering with a tech-led travel solution can simplify a company’s sustainability journey by giving it the reporting capabilities it needs to track and reduce its emissions, and empowering its travellers to choose lower-emitting options.

5. Creating a good user experience

Some companies struggle to get their employees to use their chosen travel booking platform. Employees are often put off if the experience is frustrating or the prices are higher than what they find elsewhere. But when employees book off-platform, companies lose track of employee travel plans and don’t receive data on the carbon emissions generated by that trip.

The solution: Give employees a solution they enjoy

Choose a user-friendly platform that employees enjoy. Booking a trip should take a matter of minutes and employees should be able to choose from a large selection of journey options, with emissions comparisons for each option displayed in the booking platform.

The benefit of a tech-first travel solution

While every company has its own goals and challenges in relation to sustainability, there are innovative solutions in the market to meet and address them. By embracing a tech-first travel solution, implementing standardised reporting systems, and investing in education and awareness campaigns, organisations can overcome these challenges and make strong sustainability progress.

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