Post-pandemic policies fail to meet investor and employee demand for greener travel, Emburse research reveals
One in two organizations plan to increase their focus on socially- and environmentally-responsible business travel post-pandemic. But few are really taking the steps required to turn that plan to action.
Emburse, a global leader in expense management and accounts payable automation solutions, today published the latest installment of its research, The Remaking of Business Travel. The findings showed that, despite increased emphasis on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues among corporations1 and a heightened demand for sustainable travel among consumers2, most business travel programs still lack specificity and accountability when it comes to environmental and social impact.
Only 35 percent of organizations have a sustainability policy that includes business travel. Those policies that do exist are limited in their scope, focusing mainly on measuring carbon footprint (included in 58 percent of policies). Less than a quarter of companies take any further measures, such as mandating sustainable suppliers or purchasing carbon offsets.
Organizations are also unwilling to pay more for sustainable travel vendors (only 14 percent would pay any more for a greener option). While 40 percent say that sustainability is important or very important when choosing suppliers, that pales next to the 78 percent who class low cost as important and 85 percent who prioritize traveler convenience. Only 22 percent are using sustainability data when making supplier selections and only 19 percent are mandating more environmentally-conscious airlines and accommodation providers.
The study revealed corporate travel programs are doing even less to tackle social inequity. Only 19 percent of companies have a policy to buy travel products and services from minority-owned businesses. However, companies who have a travel sustainability policy are more likely to actively address other social issues. Over a third (37 percent) of those with a sustainability policy also have a social equity policy.
Larger companies – or those with large travel programs – are faring better. Those spending over $30m a year rate sustainability or social equity as important or very important more than those spending less than $10m a year. And theyre almost twice as likely to set sustainability targets for events and mandate sustainable accommodation options.
One potential reason for the limited action on climate and social issues is that corporate travel departments have competing priorities. COVID-19 has made duty of care a higher priority for employers (99 percent say thats a top priority). The lack of consistent supplier sustainability and social equity data upon which to make decisions, is likely another barrier.
ESG is becoming a higher priority for companies but, when it comes to business travel, few have found the time or focus to make concrete changes. This is a missed opportunity. Now is the perfect moment to re-evaluate travel policies and ensure they meet employee and investor expectations for greener, more equitable travel, said Eric Friedrichsen, CEO at Emburse. Its not easy to make socially-conscious business travel choices. But there are steps every organization can–and should–take: for example, making carbon footprint data easily available to travelers, rewarding employees who choose more sustainable options, and setting rules to ensure no one takes a flight for just one meeting.
The Remaking of Business Travel is an Emburse research survey conducted in collaboration with the Global Business Travel Association. The GBTA team surveyed 220 travel managers in the US and Canada between April 22-28, 2021. One third of the companies surveyed had travel budgets of less than $10M; one third had budgets of $10M-$30M, and the last demographic had a budget of +$30M. These companies ranged in industry, including professional services, healthcare, finance and more
1Internal Audits Role in ESG Reporting, The Institute of Internal Auditors, June 2021
2Sustainable Travel Report, Booking.com, June 2021