Sustainable business travel is one way that businesses can significantly mitigate their environmental impact. Together with tourism, business travel contributes to the release of almost 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This guide is intended to assist companies wanting to reduce their travel emissions quickly and conveniently.
WHY SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS TRAVEL SHOULD BE A PRIORITY
Travel via plane, train and car plays an essential role for businesses:
- The daily commute
- Deliveries and customer service appointments
- Conference meetings
- Corporate events, exhibitions, trade fairs, etc.
Business travel is of economic importance but as we launch into the last 10 years of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we find that reducing our fossil fuel dependency must also be an urgent priority. Implementing green travel policies that prioritize sustainability while remaining affordable and efficient is possible. Below are just a few practical strategies to mitigate, reduce and offset your business travel emissions.
REDUCE WORK TRAVEL
Part of the great reset brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the quick adaptation of hybrid workspaces. Remote work software enables business productivity and operations to resume while minimizing workplace carbon emissions. This sustainable alternative can be better appreciated within the three main pillars of sustainability.
To learn more about remote work and why it matters to your business, read Green Business Bureau’s “The Sustainability Benefits of Remote Work.”
WHEN TRAVEL IS NECESSARY, CHOOSE GREENER WAYS OF COMMUTING
Research from Harvard University shows that many business sectors rely on business travel and stopping it all together would have (and has had) some major economic consequences worldwide. For companies that rely on business travel, there are greener ways of commuting:
- Carpooling, ride and car sharing
- Scooters, bikes and low-emission vehicles
- Public transportation
- Low-emission air travel
- Invest in carbon offset programs
- Choose green hotels
Carpooling, Ride and Car Sharing
Organize a company carpool program. Ideally, this program will utilize employees’ vehicles but carpooling through ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber is another option. There has been some controversy over whether or not ride-sharing companies are actually causing more harm than good, mainly due to the fact that car ownership is still increasing at the same time Uber and Lyft are deploying their vehicles. When choosing a ride-sharing service, try to select an electric vehicle option if possible. Just recently launched, Uber Green connects riders to hybrid and fully electric vehicles.
Another green commute option is peer-to-peer car sharing which allows car owners to lease out their vehicles. Turo is the most popular car sharing service today and offers a variety of vehicle options including EVs. Turo is also dedicated to offsetting 100% of their carbon emissions through various offset projects in the U.S. and Canada.
Later this year, employees opting to drive can use Google Maps’ new feature, which will guide drivers along routes estimated to release the least amount of carbon emissions based on traffic, slopes and other factors.
Scooters, Bikes and Low Emission Vehicles
Assess your surrounding transit areas to locate bike parking, bike sharing and electric scooter rentals. Consider creating a bike parking area onsite.
- Bike parking stations are relatively easy to implement but they need to be secure and conveniently accessible. Designating areas for bike storage or outdoor bike racks is one way to eliminate the risk of stolen bicycles.
- There are a variety of city bike-sharing programs from companies like Citi Bike, Divvy and Capital Bikeshare. Research to see if there’s a nearby bike sharing program in your area.
- Electric scooter rentals are offered by companies like Lime, Spin and Bird. Once again, you will need to research to see how accessible scooter rentals are for your staff.
- Consider implementing a travel policy that allows car rental only for economy, compact, hybrid or electric vehicles.
Encourage public transportation by offering free shuttle bus passes or covering the cost of bike and scooter rentals. Look to see if there are any electric bus stations nearby and encourage staff to choose the greener travel option.
Low-Emission Air Travel
Implement more eco-friendly ways of flying by booking direct flights. Direct flights cut down on about 50% carbon emissions since most flying emissions come from take-off and landing. Additionally, reduce or eliminate business class air travel. According to the World Bank, flying in business class generates about three times more emissions than flying in coach.
Book with airlines that are committed to lowering their carbon footprint either through carbon neutrality plans, using cleaner fuels, using more eco-friendly materials and upgraded, more energy efficient aircraft.
Invest In Carbon Offset Programs
If business travel cannot be minimized, make plans to invest in carbon offset programs to compensate for your travel emissions. There are numerous organizations that offer such programs for businesses but deciding which to choose can be time consuming. Some recommendations include:
Organizations that offer credible offset programs typically help businesses calculate their emissions, provide progress reports and design a plan on how best to compensate for these emissions through clean energy and carbon reduction projects elsewhere in the world. Projects can involve carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, forest restoration, coastal management, clean energy, among others.
Choose Green Hotels
The hospitality sector accounts for great amounts of waste and resource consumption and so, companies must also consider booking exclusively with hotels that abide by the latest sustainability standards. Truly green hotels cover all aspects of their operations including building design and efficiency, water conservation policies, waste reduction methods, among others. LEED and BREEAM certifications are a good indicator of a hotel’s sustainability commitments. Refer to Green Business Bureau’s “Sustainability Guide for Hotels and Motels: Getting Started” to learn more about what green initiatives the hotel industry should be targeting.
Earn GBB EcoPoints™ Towards You Green Business Certification Level
One last recommendation is to consider partnering with Green Business Bureau and utilizing their certification program and tools towards your green travel goals. Green Business Bureau members who use the GBB EcoAssessment™ and EcoPlanner™ tools to understand, prioritize, implement and certify their green initiatives can get credit for booking with Goodwings. Members who complete the Travel Offset initiative within the Outdoor – Transport category will earn GBB EcoPoints™ and have the opportunity to reach Gold and Platinum certification.
There are a variety of ways to implement sustainable business travel which can support your overall sustainability mission and goals. Here’s a recap on green initiatives to reduce your company’s travel emissions:
- Invest in software that enables your organization to conduct work remotely. Support hybrid workspaces that not only reduce travel emissions but also support employee satisfaction and productivity.
- Encouraging greener ways of commuting by utilizing carpooling, ridesharing and car sharing services, bike parking, electric scooter rentals and public transportation.
- Choose reputable airlines and hotels that are actively committed to lowering their carbon footprint.
- Join a carbon offset program to support clean energy and carbon reduction projects.
About The Author
Luz Andrea Ramirez
GBB Green Ambassador
Luz Andrea Ramirez is a Global Sustainability graduate student at University of South Florida. She has worked on a variety of social impact projects including Red Cross oversees where she trained in the development of local communities and indigenous groups on a variety of issues. Her interests are in racial health disparities, sustainable food systems and the green economy.