Travel Management

Why you need a corporate travel policy that puts sustainability first

Discover why you need a corporate travel policy that reduces business travel costs, delivers on sustainability targets, and sets fair and equitable conditions for your employees when they're traveling for work.

Travel in 2023 calls for a new approach, and it needs to start at a policy level if it's going to succeed. In this article we break down the differences between a corporate travel policy and a sustainable one, and put forward the case for weaving sustainable guidance into into your existing travel policy or creating a new one altogether. Having a sustainable travel policy in place will not only help you manage your costs and emissions at the same time, but boost company awareness around the impact of their business travel decisions. 


What is a corporate travel policy?

If you’ve worked at any large organization of more than 50-100 employees, you may be familiar with what a corporate travel policy is. But if you're not familiar with the term, a corporate travel policy is a set of guidelines and rules set by a company to make sure that employees know how to plan and book their travel. In more concrete terms, it outlines the procedures and rules around travel bookings, expense management and reimbursement in line with the company’s other policies and regulations.  


What makes a corporate travel policy sustainable

A sustainable corporate travel policy is just like a normal corporate travel policy, 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 on the road, but it can also help businesses manage their travel budgets and carbon emissions at the same time. 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 policy is to balance the need for business-related travel with the goal of sustainability and responsible resource management.


What are the benefits of implementing a sustainable corporate travel policy?


1. It shows you’re serious about sustainability

The best way of showing that you’re serious about building sustainability into your culture is by turning pledges into action. For businesses who do not produce and sell goods (such as consultancy firms like PWC), business travel is responsible for a significant portion of their emissions. Last year, PWC reported that travel made up 68% of their company's total emissions, making it a major focus area for reductions. Overall, addressing your travel can be a quick win and a good way of showing your employees (not to mention your competitors!) that it’s a priority area for your business. 


2. It helps you control business travel costs

According to CWT and GBTA’s 2024 Global Business Travel Forecast, air fares, hotel rates and car rental rates will continue to rise throughout 2023 and 2024, which means that businesses will see a significant increase in travel expenses across the board. A corporate travel policy helps manage, and in alot of cases reduce, those business travel costs and emissions because it gives employees specific guidance on how to book their travel through preferred suppliers and what passes as an expense from business trip. 


3. It creates fair and equal conditions for business travel 

Having clear guidelines for how much employees should be spending on their business travel will level the playing field and eliminate any ambiguity around the topic. The last thing you want is to invite office gossip that someone got to fly business for a short-haul trip, when others didn't. Leveling the playing field will help eliminate any ambiguity around business travel.


4. It allows you to monitor business travel activity and emissions hotspots 

A more consistent and uniform approach to planning and booking travel will give you the data you need to establish travel trends and plan your annual travel and emissions budgets effectively. For example if you can see that long-haul trips are causing the bulk of your company’s emissions and costs, you may decide that longer but less frequent trips would help to reduce costs and company footprint. 


5. It makes sure you follow through on your "duty of care" obligations

As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your employees when they're traveling on behalf of the company - which is called “Duty of Care”. A travel policy provides them with the tools they need in unpredictable situations, whether that’s a canceled flight, or a hospital visit.


How do you know if you need a corporate travel policy?

As a rule of thumb, if you’re more than 5 employees, you should have a corporate travel policy in place. This is not only because it will make it easier for you to manage budgets, but also because as an employer you have a responsibility to your employees in terms of Duty of Care. Putting a sustainable travel policy from the beginning will also make it easier as you grow because you’ll have something ready to go for when new employees join the company. 




Build your own sustainable travel policy with our free template!




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