Business Traveller, Time to Stop Greenwashing and Take Real Action

3 min read

JOHANNESBURG – Frequent flyers and road warriors have a key role to play in driving sustainable business travel. In fact, sustainability and business travel are ideal partners. With travel managers catering to regular routes and preferences, the infrastructure exists to turn the dial. Minor tweaks can significantly slice emissions given the repetition of corporate trips.

But do most businesses seem to care? Not enough, says Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Travel. “Some pay lip service to eco-consciousness with CSR reports and eco-driven mission statements. But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll see little effort to implement meaningful change.”

Of course, some businesses genuinely want to make their business travel greener. The hitch? “They’re hitting roadblocks because they don’t have the in-house infrastructure, skills, capacity, and leadership support. Others may highly value sustainability, but their travel programmes don’t reflect this,” says Smith.

Sustainability is also a broad concept, and the overwhelm can be real. The problem? Businesses miss chances to help their travellers act responsibly. But there are wins to be had. Smith breaks down key parts of sustainable travel, with tips to turn words into action.

Words: We will reduce carbon emissions from air travel and ground transport.

How to take action: To move forward, you need a roadmap. Start by setting some clear goals to reduce emissions. Teaming up with a travel management partner is a great move – they can help set these goals, identify areas to cut your carbon footprint and provide regular reports on your progress. Some ideas? You might encourage travellers to bundle more meetings per trip to minimise travel and emissions. Also, consider opting for nonstop flights – they’re not just convenient but also kinder to the environment.

Words: We will offset travel emissions.

How to take action: This commitment is fantastic, but if you work with low-quality or unverified offsets, that green goodness could vanish like smoke. Go for certified, qualified offsets from trusted providers to truly make your company travel carbon neutral. And remember, prioritise cutting emissions first before relying too heavily on offsets.

Words: Being responsible travellers is essential to us.

How to take action: Being mindful of your travel choices is like partnering with ethical suppliers – many businesses are on board with that. Making a positive impact with your business travel suppliers is a thoughtful move, too. Consider choosing hotels that value heritage preservation and contribute to the community, for example. If you usually go for big hotel groups, ensure they have certified zero waste to landfill policies. Then mix it up with some diverse accommodation options like guesthouses, where your support can also benefit the local community.

Words: We are going paperless.

How to take action: Whether juggling a hybrid or in-office work setup, going digital with your documents and processes is a win-win for both productivity and the planet. Travel management programmes with digital solutions can cut down on the paper trail, a big hidden cost in travel management. Skip the physical paper process for travel approvals and save time with an efficient online booking tool that encourages business travellers to book within your travel policy.

Words: We hold sustainable events and meetings.

How to take action: Your event venues may boast impressive solar energy, grey water, and recycling initiatives, but how are they doing on food wastage? Up to 60% of event waste can come from that buffet. Increase your conference’s eco-friendliness with simple changes: prompt attendees to pre-order food, avoid individually wrapped items, prioritise lower-emission vegetarian and vegan options, choose a surplus-savvy caterer, and opt for locally sourced ingredients to trim travel emissions. Smith wraps it up by emphasising that the messenger matters regarding sustainability statements. If leadership talks about going greener but doesn’t walk the talk, it falls flat among colleagues. Actions speak louder than words in the journey towards sustainability.