Survey: Many Cos. Yet to Advance on Sustainability Goals

While corporate travel sustainability has been the subject of increased attention and discussion in recent years, a new study suggests that many organizations that have set greener travel as a goal have yet to take concrete action toward achieving those aims. 

According to a survey of 220 travel managers in the U.S. and Canada conducted in April by corporate expense management and accounts payable specialist Emburse in conjunction with the Global Business Travel Association, about half of respondent organizations planned to increase their focus on environmentally sustainable travel after the pandemic, but only 35 percent actually have a sustainability policy that encompasses corporate travel. 

Further, of the existing policies that include travel, the majority are limited in scope, according to the survey, focusing mainly on measuring carbon emissions, which was included in 58 percent of corporate travel sustainability initiatives. Fewer than one-quarter of respondent companies that have corporate travel sustainability policies include in them additional measures, such as mandating sustainable suppliers or purchasing carbon offsets, according to the survey. 

Sustainability concerns in many cases take a backseat to financial factors, according to the study, with just 14 percent of respondent companies reporting a willingness to pay more for a greener travel supplier. And while 40 percent of respondents tabbed sustainability as an “important” or “very important” factor when choosing suppliers, that figure was far outpaced by cost concerns, cited as a key factor by 78 percent of respondents, and traveler convenience, which was a priority for 85 percent. Just 22 percent of respondents used sustainability data when selecting a supplier, according to the survey. 

A major reason for the lack of action toward achieving sustainability goals likely is the drastic increase in the focus on corporate duty-of-care responsibilities as a post-Covid priority; 99 percent of survey respondents cited duty of care as a top priority as travel resumes. The lack of consistent supplier sustainability data likely also plays a role in hindering more sustainable sourcing, according to the survey.

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