Sustainable Business Travel

How to implement a corporate travel policy that delivers on sustainability

Learn how to implement a sustainable travel policy that cuts costs, reduces carbon emissions, and boosts employee awareness.

When introducing sustainability across your business, make sure to prioritize the activities that contribute the most to your overall footprint - like business travel. Creating a sustainable travel policy not only helps reduce your environmental impact but also showcases a commitment to sustainability, both internally and externally.

In this article we'll take you through some of our top tips for rolling out a sustainable travel policy at work. 


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What's the difference between a corporate and sustainable travel policy?

Many businesses are experiencing levels of travel that are exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Added to that, they're also trying to reduce their carbon footprint in line with climate targets and Net Zero goals. A sustainable travel policy is just like a normal corporate travel policy which outlines the rules and regulations for business travel, except that it prioritizes sustainability. It not only provides employees with the structure and education to help them make more sustainable choices when they're traveling for work, but it can also help Travel Managers stay in control of their travel budgets, and give ESG Managers the overview they need to stay on track with Net Zero targets.


Why do you need a sustainable travel policy?

A sustainable travel policy can provide the structure and education to help employees make more sustainable choices when they're on the road, but also help businesses manage their travel budgets and minimize their carbon footprint. The purpose of the sustainable travel policy is to minimize the negative impact that travel has on the environment, society, and local communities and promote a responsible approach to travel in general.  The overall aim of the sustainable travel policy is to balance the need for business-related travel with the goal of sustainability and responsible resource management.


How to implement your sustainable travel policy

Communicate the message from the top

If the CEO doesn’t firmly endorse the sustainable travel policy, it’s going to be hard to get it off the ground, because it's then left to the office or travel manager to enforce, which is a hard position for them with no support. A simple way of doing this is to get the CEO to send out an all-personnel email or arrange a company meeting. Here are the key things that they should cover in their communication:

  • Why traveling more sustainably is important for the business, but also for the planet
    This is a huge opportunity for the CEO to inspire and really show the company’s commitment to reducing the climate impact of business travel.  

  • What the goal is (for example, we want / need to reduce our carbon emissions by 20% by 2025)
    Whether your business has official reduction targets or not, it’s important to have a tangible goal (just like you would for any business initiative), that can help you measure success.

  • What employees’ role is in making it a success
    Increasingly, employees want to know that there is a role for them beyond their nine to five. Involving them in a target-based initiative like travel is a great way of giving them ownership of something that can really make a difference. 

  • Why their feedback is important
    Getting it right will take time and lots of rounds of feedback, so providing space for employees to share their experience (for example if they are using a new platform or software) will highlight that it’s a process and one that they’re all part of.

  • When and how the initial results will be shared
    Having regular check-ins to share the results and feedback is the best way of boosting morale and gives you the best chance of making it a long-term success.

According to a recent study, 42% of businesses in the US and 45% in Europe are assigning “carbon-emissions budgets” to incentivize employees to curb their business travel.


Remove any obstacles

Even with the best intentions, people naturally gravitate towards tried and tested behaviours. This is why creating the conditions for success is so important. Having “default” settings on your employees browsers with your preferred travel supplier is a great way of preventing this from happening because you're eliminating the comfortable options that they would naturally gravitate towards. 

Start with a pilot project!

The easiest way to fail is to give people tools that are complicated or that go against an established way of doing things in the company. To check whether the sustainable travel policy or new travel management system is intuitive and easy to use, select a core group of people of different seniority levels and run a pilot project. That way you can get feedback before it’s rolled out to the whole group. Be sure to give your pilot group specific criteria for the type of feedback you want so that you don’t get buried in highly detailed (but irrelevant) feedback.


"A pilot project is a great way to get instant feedback on whether something is working or not, and make adjustments to your approach" 

Sille Krukow, Nudge and Behavioral Design Expert


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Enforce the sustainable travel policy at a team level 

The success or failure of your sustainable travel policy should not sit on one person’s shoulders. To make sure that there is an equal split of responsibility, give team leaders ownership for their own team’s business travel and make sure it's in line with the sustainable travel policy. This will give teams the autonomy to manage themselves, but also create more accountability when you're assessing CO2 emissions totals. 



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Make it competitive 

A little bit of competition never hurt anyone (!), particularly when a positive result is ultimately good for the planet. Consider whether to set goals for individual teams to reduce their carbon emissions and announce a “winner” every quarter to make it a bit more fun. 

Celebrate the results!

Who doesn’t love a good news story? Sharing milestones with your employees will boost morale and reinforce the message that it's “progress not perfection” that the company is looking for and that everyone has an important part to play in the outcome. Sharing the results externally, provided you have quality data to back it up, is also a great way of showing that you're doing your part in the fight against climate change. 

Never stop monitoring your progress 

Having quarterly or bi-annual check-ins will make sure that the initiative you've introduced stays on track. Maybe your reduction goals weren’t ambitious enough or there’s a new, better solution on the market that will make your life easier. Taking action on these learnings regularly will make sure that any new initiative you introduce keeps evolving over time. 

Encourage knowledge sharing

Maybe the sales team travels regularly for work and has useful travel hacks or local transportation tips to share. This sort of sharing should be widely encouraged and documented to not only create a positive and inclusive internal travel culture, but also help keep sustainability top of mind when people are on the road. 


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