Sustainable Business Travel

How to create a sustainable corporate travel policy

Learn how to implement a corporate 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 corporate business travel. Creating a sustainable corporate 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 the differences between corporate travel policies, how to write one, and what it takes to successfully implement a sustainable corporate travel policy across your organization.


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What are the different types of corporate travel policies? 

Corporate travel policy 

A corporate travel policy is a set of guidelines and rules that companies put in place to help regulate and manage employee business travel. A corporate travel policy would typically lay out some expectations and requirements for how employees book their travel, claim for their travel-related expenses, and suggest some overall guidance for how employees can ensure their own personal safety and wellbeing when they’re traveling for work. The main purpose of a corporate travel policy is to control costs and maintain consistency in travel-related decisions across the organization.

Corporate travel and expense policy

There aren't huge differences between a corporate travel policy and a corporate travel and expense policy, but by adding expenses into your policy, you can kill two birds with one stone, because you can set the guidelines for how employees book their travel, but also how they manage their daily expense allowances and articulate the protocol for how they submit those expenses when they return home. Adding an expense module into your corporate travel policy makes a lot of sense because expense management is such a big part of what makes or breaks a good travel policy.   

Corporate, expense and sustainable travel policy

So now we're rolling corporate travel management, expenses AND sustainability into one, but there's a good reason why that is. Businesses of all sizes 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. Adding sustainability into your corporate travel policy will help you provide employees with the structure and education so that they can make more sustainable choices when they're traveling for work. It also has the benefit of helping Travel Managers stay in control of their travel budgets, and gives ESG and Sustainability Managers the overview they need to stay on track with Net Zero targets.

Flexible corporate travel policy

Businesses these days need to walk the tightrope between giving their employees the freedom to book and manage their own travel, while still keeping an eye on the bottom line. A flexible travel policy should give employees clear guidance on how to book and manage their own travel, but also give the HR or Travel Manager the tools to control costs, keep employees safe as well as analyze emissions from business travel. 

Keep it flexible with our new travel policy guide

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Do I need a corporate travel policy?

Deciding whether you need to implement a travel policy and which one is most appropriate for your business will depend on a few key factors, such as how many employees need to travel, how often they travel and what sustainability goals you have in place. However, as a rule of thumb, if you have more than 10 employees traveling at least once a month, you’ll benefit from any kind of travel policy. This is because it helps you control costs for expensive things like flights and accommodation, but it also sets the guardrails for what can and can’t be expensed, and helps prevent any unexpected costs. If you're not already convinced, here are a few other benefits to introducing a travel policy to your organization: 

  • Improves expense control: 
    Get better control of travel-related expenses and ensure that employees adhere to specific guidelines for booking, accommodation, meals, and other costs.

  • Helps drive consistent decision-making: 
    Ensure consistency in decision-making across the organization regarding travel arrangements, expense reimbursement, and other travel-related matters.

  • Keeps employees safe when they’re traveling: 
    As an employer, you have a responsibility to keep your employees safe when they’re traveling for work. A travel policy sets out expectations for safety measures and communication when employees are traveling.

  • Helps keep you compliant:
    If your business operates in regions with specific legal or compliance requirements related to travel, having a policy in place can help ensure that your employees are aware of and adhere to these regulations.

  • Clears up any expense reimbursement issues:
    If you've encountered challenges with managing and reimbursing travel expenses, a clear travel policy can streamline the reimbursement process and reduce potential misunderstandings.

  • Helps you leverage negotiated corporate rates: 
    If your company has the opportunity to negotiate corporate rates with hotels, airlines, or other travel service providers, a travel policy can help outline and leverage these negotiated rates.

  • Sets clear expectations for business travel: 
    If you want to establish clear communication channels between traveling employees and the office and set expectations for when they should check in and what constitutes business as opposed to "bleisure" or blended travel.

  • Helps anticipate travel costs:
    If you want to have a structured approach to financial planning for business travel, including budgeting, cost control, and forecasting, a policy can help you with that.

  • Helps create structure as you grow:
    If your company is growing and the number of employees traveling for business is increasing, a travel policy becomes increasingly important to manage the associated complexities and costs.

GW-Policy control (3)

Goodwings' travel policy features

Who should be involved in developing my corporate travel policy?

It’s a good idea to set up a core team of people who will be part of the design and / or implementation of the travel policy. Here's a list of all the people who should be consulted, but the responsibility for creating and updating the corporate travel policy will usually fall to Human Resources. 


Here's who you'll need to create a corporate travel policy




  • Human resources:

    Responsible for crafting the overall structure of the policy and making sure that the language is clear but still in keeping with the company’s values and tone of voice. They will also help ensure that the policy addresses employees needs, meets the relevant employment laws and that there is the appropriate training in place to get it off the ground.

  • Finance Department:

    Responsible for designing the expense part of the policy, which includes how expenses should be reimbursed, what classifies as an expense, and all budgetary considerations for when employees are booking their travel. The finance team will aim to strike the balance between controlling costs, and making sure that employees have what they need to be able to travel effectively.

  • Sustainability team:

    If your company has set carbon reduction or Net Zero targets, the sustainability team will be involved in assessing how those targets can be achieved with travel, for example limiting travel or putting in place strict guidelines for when travel is deemed necessary. If you’ve gone one step further and set up internal carbon fees, the sustainability team, together with the finance team, will work out when and where those are applicable.   

  • Travel Management Team:

    The travel management team will be the ones responsible for managing the travel policy, and if you plan to use a travel management tool, they’ll have the task of setting up things like approval processes. You’ll want to get their input on what would make the day-to-day running of the travel policy smoother for them.  

  • Diversity and Inclusion Team:
    The travel policy you create should include guidance from your Diversity and Inclusion team, and include information for employees from diverse backgrounds, for those with health conditions or impairments, and those identifying as LGBTQ+. Having specific guidance for these groups will make sure that they feel confident to travel, and know that they will be kept safe when they're doing so.

Finally, you may also want to involve your legal team, to make sure that you’re following all the appropriate employment laws and regulations, as well as your tech team, if the travel policy or approval flows need to be implemented in an internal intranet system, or input into your travel management system. 


What should I do before I start writing my corporate travel policy?

Writing the policy is easy - we've even done it for you here, but before you start, you'll want to work out what the purpose of the travel policy is, how it will be used and shared and how you will structure the information in it. Here are a few things to consider before you get started: 

  • Get input from your team
    Speak to the team members who are traveling the most to determine what they struggling with the most when they travel. Is it that they're not sure what classifies as an expense, or that when they travel to certain countries, they don't know what the protocol is should anything happen. These insights will be helpful when you come to writing the policy. 

  • Decide who will sign off travel requests and expenses

    The one thing you can't get from a travel policy template is who, specifically in your company, should set the travel approvals. Before you set anything in stone, you'll want to identify who has the authority to sign off trips and expenses so that everyone knows who to go to for what. If you have a travel management tool this may be a feature they offer automatically, but you still need to assign that person. 

  • Identify the booking tool/s you'll use

    If you haven't got a travel management system or booking tool in place, you'll want to set something up before you finalise your travel policy. Most good travel management systems include pre-approval features to make approving travel much simpler, so that employees don't have to ask their manager every time they need to book a trip.

  • Assign responsibility for the policy
    You should look at the travel policy as a living, breathing document that will require changes and amendments in line with new travel patterns, sustainability targets and changes to the company's financials. Assigning one person to oversee and own the policy will make sure that there is consistency and one person that everyone can go to with feedback.

  • Check what's included in your travel insurance
    So that you can provide your employees with all the right information in one central place, gather your policy details from your travel insurance provider (or if you haven't set up travel insurance yet, now is the time to get it sorted). Employees should have easy access to travel insurance details, in the case of an emergency. 

How should I write my corporate travel policy? 

When you come to writing your corporate travel policy, a clear structure will make it easier to read and hopefully follow too! Here are a few things you should consider:

Define the purpose of the travel policy

The first section of the travel policy should focus on who the travel policy is for, and why it’s important for the company to have one in place. For example, is the policy for specific employees who travel the most, or is it for everyone in the organization? A short paragraph should go something like this, emphasizing not only that it’s useful for the company, but that it will also help make their lives easier:

“The purpose of our travel policy is to establish clear guidelines and expectations for employees that need to travel on behalf of the company. The aim of this policy is to  ensure consistency, cost control, and the safety and well-being of our employees when they’re traveling. By defining approval processes, outlining booking procedures, and setting reimbursement policies, we hope to streamline travel-related activities and expenses while maintaining transparency and fairness. The travel policy should also be used to promote compliance with relevant laws and ethical standards, which are very important to us as a business. Ultimately, this document should serve as a valuable resource for employees, giving you the tools and knowledge to navigate the complexities of business travel efficiently and in accordance with our organizational standards and values.”

Set clear guidelines

Be clear on who within the company will be responsible for approving travel requests and provide contact details of that person so that employees can get in touch directly with any questions or concerns that are not specifically covered in the travel policy. You’ll also want to set clear guidelines for how employees should book their flights, accommodation and other travel related bookings. Sustainability targets should also be incorporated into these guidelines, with clear guidance on how employees can minimize their carbon footprint by choosing more sustainable options for flight carriers, hotels etc.. 

  • Expense Policies

You should have a specific section that outlines the company’s policy on expense reimbursement. This should include details of what constitutes a “per diem”  or “PD” allowance, as well as all other eligible expenses, and submission requirements. This can often be where the confusion lies if the guidance is not clear, so it’s worth spending a little bit more time to make sure everything is covered and that you’ve outlined a clear process with the help of finance. 

Discover how Goodwings helps you manage travel expenses

When you choose Goodwings, you can integrate any expense tool of your choice into the platform, which means you can effortlessly see how much is being spent on travel, and capture all the necessary data you need to stay compliant and meet regulatory checks. Here are just a few of the expense tools that you can integrate with Goodwings:

  • Accommodation and Transportation

Clearly define what is considered to be an acceptable and sustainable standard of accommodation, as well as suggesting modes of transport that employees should use (with specific guidance for countries or cities that may be considered to be less safe than others). For a more sustainable approach,  include guidance on modes of transport that are more sustainable than others (for example, choosing newer aircraft for flights, or staying in hotels that are LEED registered).

  • International Travel Considerations

Employees should be given clear instruction about what visa requirements are needed to enter specific countries, as this could potentially derail an important business trip. Be sure to also include information such as currency exchange, cultural considerations, and any necessary vaccinations that are needed. If you have any third parties that can help organise these requirements, include their information as well. 

  • Safety and Security

One of the most important parts of the travel policy is safety and security, also known as “duty of care”, because you have a responsibility as an employer to keep your employees safe when they’re traveling on behalf of the company. To that end, you’ll want to include guidance on emergency procedures, contact information, and any travel insurance coverage.


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How can I incorporate sustainability into my corporate travel policy?

The most important thing to emphasize in your corporate travel policy is that employees should first of all consider whether travel is necessary in the first place. You can do this by providing them with some set criteria, for example, travel may be essential for team building and leadership development but less important for something like basic skills training. Laying this groundwork will make it much easier for employees to know when they should be traveling and when they should be using online video conferencing tools.  Once you've set those guidelines, you can use the travel policy as a part educational tool, part policy to help employees understand how to plan and travel more sustainably. Here are a few additional tips that can help you make sure that sustainability is incorporated into your policy:

  • Reiterate the need to plan ahead

    "Fewer but longer trips" is a very effective way of reducing emissions, which requires planning and coordination with other team members. For example if there's a team project that will require a number of trips to the same location, perhaps that number can be reduced with forward planning.

  • Provide an easy-to-use sustainable booking tool

    Enforcing sustainable behaviour is harder than it may seem and changing hard-worn habits won't happen overnight. But to increase your chances of success, you'll want to introduce a sustainable booking tool to help them track their emissions and provide them with informative tips so that they're encouraged to make better decisions when they travel. This could be, for example, showing the difference in emissions between two flights or encouraging them to limit stopovers and travel directly. A good sustainable booking tool can help automate this with low-carbon flight paths, sustainable hotel options,  and AI-generated information on the vegan or vegetarian food options to try when you're at your destination.

  • Introduce carbon fees

    Implementing "internal carbon fees" (a financial cost attached to business travel emissions) is a good way of making travel emissions more real for employees, and helping them better understand the environmental cost of their decisions. These can be applied at a team level, to give teams flexibility to manage their own traevl, while still taking responsibility for it. 

Take sustainable business travel to the next level with Goodwings

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How should I implement a sustainable travel policy?

Now that you've learned how to incorporate sustainability into your corporate travel policy, it's time to get everyone on board. Here's a few tips to make sure you're setting yourself up for success. 

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. 

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. 

Turn your employees into climate heroes

Discover how Goodwings is helping PNO employees track and reduce their carbon emissions



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. 


A well-crafted corporate travel policy will serve as a guiding framework that not only streamlines business travel but also aligns with broader corporate objectives. With the right approach, a corporate travel policy can be an invaluable tool for enhancing operational efficiency, minimizing risks, and ensuring responsible and well-managed business travel within the organization.


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