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GBTA: Corporate Travel Buyers Focus on Sustainability

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Sustainability is increasingly weighing on the minds of corporate travel buyers, according to new research from the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

By: INTERNATIONAL MEETINGS REVIEW

In 2014, the GBTA took the pulse of nearly 300 U.S. and European-based travel managers around the world to determine how they currently view sustainable business travel initiatives, their intentions to incorporate sustainability into programs and the impact of their existing travel policies. The survey was sponsored by Enterprise Holdings, which owns and operates National Car Rental, as well as Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo Rent A Car.

Among the key findings: Significantly more companies in the U.S. and Europe are incorporating sustainability programs into travel contracts, with nearly one in five U.S. companies and three in five European companies evaluating sustainability as part of their business travel strategy.

This represents an 18 percent increase in the number of European-based companies with sustainability initiatives written into their company’s travel policy compared to two years ago. U.S.-based companies are improving as well, though at a more modest rate. The number of American companies with sustainable travel policies rose eight percent compared to 2011.

“Overall, sustainability initiatives appear to be more integrated in Europe-based organizations, with opportunity for improvement among U.S.-based organizations,” said Joseph Bates, GBTA Foundation’s vice president of research. “We found that European companies are focused on efforts that result in both financial and environmental benefits, while American companies have a strong focus on the human relations aspect of sustainability.”

Other key insights from the study include:

The majority of European travel managers (52 percent) think sustainability is more important to their organization now than compared to two years ago.

Safety and security considerations are the biggest driver of sustainability investments in both the U.S. (72 percent) and Europe (74 percent). Long-term cost savings (71 percent) ranked second in Europe, while American companies were focused on contributing to society (68 percent).

Forty percent or more of American and European companies credit a stronger public image, improved employee morale and more efficient business processes as benefits of their sustainability investments.

“It does not surprise me to see sustainability issues rising up the agenda for Travel Managers,” said Jim Burrell, senior vice president for Enterprise Holdings in Europe. “Sustainability within the travel supply chain has been a core component of contractual discussions for a number of years.  However, there is a definite shift to this becoming more about measurement and impact than just a ‘nice to have’.”

What does this mean for business travel agents? Now more than ever, selecting sustainable travel suppliers is crucial when booking business travel. Among companies that measure their environmental footprint, nearly all measure air travel activity (96 percent in Europe and 92 percent in the U.S.). In addition, nearly half of European companies find the environmental impact of car rental and rail suppliers important (44 percent, each), and a similar amount report receiving CO2 emissions data from car rental (47 percent) and rail (44 percent) suppliers.

Choosing travel suppliers that monitor their environmental impact through GRI-level reporting and that invest in sustainable initiatives such as fuel-efficient vehicles, alternative fuels and carbon offset programs can help business travelers meet corporate sustainability goals and reduce their carbon footprint. As more and more companies begin to demand eco-friendly travel options, it’s time for travel agents to start thinking green.

 

 

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