Corporate travel and sustainable business practice

  March 19, 2020

There are two main points of focus when it comes to sustainable business:

  • the impact of business on the environment
  • the impact of business on society

Both are a concern for international Human Resource managers, but we will focus on environmental impact and sustainable business travel. 

Although there are many factors that have combined to cause the situation we now finds ourselves in, there is no doubt global business and industry has played a part. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency in the US found the transport industry as a whole is responsible for 30% of carbon emissions. There is a specific focus on the aviation and travel industry.  The EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said airline emissions in 2019 were twice what they were in the 1990’s, a rate of growth that is unsustainable if we are to preserve our planet for future generations. 

As a global business there are many ways to make corporate travel more sustainable:

To understand where your business can improve its carbon footprint assess current travel practice i.e.:

  • what business travel currently occurs?
  • how is business travel approved?
  • is the environmental impact of travel considered?
  • what are the key drivers for management when approving business travel? 
  • what is the purpose of business travel?

A growing number of businesses work with third party experts to help them measure the size of their carbon footprint.

One of the easiest ways to make your business more sustainable is to limit air travel. Ask employees if meetings can be held digitally rather than in person?  Ensure there is a clear rationale for why air travel is necessary. Encourage employees to fit multiple meetings into business trips to reduce frequency across the year. 

When flying is required make it more sustainable by:

  • choosing economy for daytime flights
  • flying directly if possible
  • for short trips only bring carry-on luggage

Transport when business travellers get to their destination is often forgotten about. Where possible encourage employees to use:

  • public transport
  • electric vehicle rentals
If you have expats travelling to another country on assignment, encourage them to consider what they are bringing and how they transport it. Although it takes longer, shipping large items or transporting them by train may be more cost effective and environmentally friendly than including them as freight by air.  We have some tips for packing to move overseas with a focus on only bringing what is needed. 
If you know there are ways your business could improve when it comes to sustainability, build it into your policy around travel. Once your policy is in place, ensure you clearly communicate it to people at all levels of your business.

Last but by no means least, measure the impact of change and provide regular updates to your business on progress made. 

When your employees do have to travel to another country on business protect them with a short term international health insurance plan.