More than ever, the environment is top of mind. In fact, most global meetings and business travel industry stakeholders already agree that sustainable travel needs to be a priority. But the industry and external stakeholders, such as policymakers, also recognize more needs to be done, according to a recently released study, entitled “The State of Sustainability in the Global Business Travel Sector,” from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Grayling, a public affairs and communications consultancy.
The report reveals barriers to achieving more sustainable business travel include higher costs, limited data and a lack of access to transparent information. On the flip side, a change in industry culture, easier tracking of data and harmonized standards are seen as key enablers. According to the GBTA, partnerships will be critical for sustainability, as the issues over financial burden-sharing and data availability are best addressed through collaboration.
The 21-page GBTA benchmarking study provides in-depth data and commentary from both global business travel buyers and travel suppliers, as well as external policymakers, think tanks and non-governmental organizations, to reveal top priorities and opportunities as the business travel industry accelerates its journey toward a more sustainable future.
Key takeaways from the study include:
- Almost nine in 10 industry respondents (89%) collectively say that sustainability is already a priority for their company.
- Regardless of region, travel buyer and supplier respondents say better protecting the planet is a priority: Asia Pacific (99%), Europe (97%), Latin America (91%) and North America (84%).
- Only 14% say that the industry is currently well advanced on sustainability — but improvements are being made as 76% of travel buyers have already incorporated or are planning to incorporate sustainability objectives in their travel policies.
- 80% of the global business travel industry report having a sustainability team and/or a sustainability program in place, and are already measuring (55%) and reporting (56%) on the environmental impact of their business travel activities.
- 88% of the global business travel sector view addressing climate change as the No. 1 priority area for action.
- 88% of the industry sector rank reducing business travel emissions as the top priority for the next two to three years.
- For industry professionals, among the biggest barriers to more sustainable business travel management practices are higher costs (82%), and lack of transparent information and data (63%). The key enablers include fostering change in industry culture (63%) and improved access to sustainability data (63%).
- Industry respondents say the most impactful actions for sustainable business travel programs are prioritizing energy-efficient accommodations (81%), suppliers with sustainability certification (78%) and flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) (73%).
- When it comes to sustainable travel policies, the main divergence between travel buyers and suppliers (as well as among regions) relates to multimodality and the frequency of travel. Seven in 10 buyers (73%) support encouraging or mandating taking fewer trips, while 60% of suppliers do not encourage this blanket reduction in travel. Regionally, Europeans are much more likely to support that less travel be encouraged or even mandated, and six times more likely than North Americans to support mandating multimodal travel options.
- External stakeholders view higher costs (58%) as the top barrier to the sector’s sustainability and almost two-thirds (62%) rank lack of interest from some industry stakeholders. Interestingly, longer travel times are more likely seen as a barrier by those outside the industry (41%) than by industry respondents (32%). And a vast majority (96%) of external respondents see prioritizing routes with the smallest carbon footprint as a big opportunity for impact.
“There’s no longer the debate whether we should engage in sustainable actions for business travel, but how we turn ambition into action. Investing in sustainable solutions must be part of our gameplan today to make sure we can still connect people and travel for business tomorrow. This is only possible if our industry joins forces — across our full value chain and with external stakeholders (including governments) — to adopt ambitious targets, drive green investments and accelerate the uptake of clean technologies,” said Delphine Millot, senior vice president of sustainability, who joined the GBTA in January to head up the association’s Sustainability Program.
“Business travel brings people together and fosters economic growth. However, the industry must ensure people can effectively connect in person and conduct business globally, while doing what is right for society and the planet,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA. “To do so, the industry needs information, tools and partnerships to leverage current momentum and execute even more actionable outcomes.”
Visit gbta.org/sustainability for more information.