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Doing the right thing: Driving sustainable behaviours in business travel and meetings.

By Dana Moore and Lone Konradsen.


Man with green world imprint on his t-short symbolising sustainable business travel

Booking in advance. Switching from road to rail. Choosing hotels with valid green credentials. All great examples of business travellers ‘doing the right thing’ to help their organisation hit sustainability goals. But how do you embed a sustainable buying culture?


Changing cultures is like a super tanker making a 360-degree turn; if you’ve built up momentum going in the wrong direction, you’ll need an informed operation to get everyone moving another way. That means changing booker and traveller behaviours for the better by aligning company goals, travel policy, traveller needs and preferences, then clearly communicating with targeted messaging. But what's involved in changing behaviours to get bookers and travellers to do the right thing? Let’s dive in!


Supporting the best way to connect.

We’re passionate about helping organisations to understanding the best way to connect with customers, prospects, and each other in a way that maximises productivity and organisation-wide success – we often refer to this as working smarter. These conversations include the ways in which employees can contribute to their organisations, while also travelling and connecting in the safest and most sustainable way.


To get there, you need to start embedding traveller wellbeing and ESG in their corporate cultures. The TMC’s role is to help define what the ‘right’ looks like and shape the education to make it happen.


It starts with data.

For TMCs, the challenge in helping customers to work smarter is getting meaningful data and putting it into a context that's relevant to the customer. We’ve gotten very good at harnessing data that evidences the impact of what doing the right thing can be. We share that data with our customers, broken down into tangible ‘buckets’ that are relevant to their business, so they can decide on what is a realistic opportunity and how they want to mitigate or reduce their emissions.


From there, data can be used for all kinds of wonderful things, like identifying audiences to target messaging or recognising trends so that we can build objective specific campaigns that encourage a shift in business cultures.


Scoping the sustainability challenge.

Travel and Procurement Managers recognise that they have a big part to play in driving the sustainability message and ensuring that practices are prioritised, especially within larger companies. But without having an understanding of how to identify and address travel sustainability challenges, gaps can appear.


A sustainability team may have achieved scope 1 [1] but, as many sustainability teams often overlook travel there is often a lack of defined objectives for Scope 3. This is perhaps not surprising in a large manufacturing business, where travel-related emissions (Scope 3) make up a relatively small percentage of the total emissions impact. But the impact can be a very different for a professional services business, where travel is likely to account for up to 70% of an organisations carbon footprint.


This is where we come in. Where a customer has a sustainability programme in place, we provide support through our commitment to driving industry-wide change toward decarbonisation.


Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions explained.

Scope 1, 2 and 3 is a way of categorising the different kinds of carbon emissions a company creates in its own operations, and in its wider value chain.

Scope 1

Direct emissions resulting from an organisations activities such as company facilities and company vehicles

Scope 2

Scope 3


Modal choice.

Finding the right balance between mode of transport and traveller wellbeing can have a significant impact on both the environment and the traveller health and happiness. Switching from air to rail is the first step companies usually take, yet rail is often more expensive than air, per mile travelled. You can fly from London to Manchester in 45 minutes, compared to 2 hours by train. You’ll save significantly on CO2, but there’s a higher cost associated with the longer journey, both in time and pounds and pence.


There are so many variables to travel mode, it’s often about what's right for the traveller, which can pose a risk to sustainability objectives. Doing the right thing for sustainability can directly contradict another important factor like wellbeing. After all, unless you can get a table seat, you can't work effectively on the train. Sitting with your laptop perched on one knee isn’t good for the wellbeing. But even this can be preferable to the road option, where you can’t work at all.


Know your audience.

The key here is to understand who you’re trying to influence, to understand more about them and why they are behaving in a certain way. Only when you’ve done that can you shape and target the messaging to influence behavioural change.


To do this, we lean heavily on data, but involving your audience and asking them direct questions can be one of your most valuable assets and help find what’s most important to them.

 

It’s all about the messaging.

Even with access to the right information, some bookers and travellers still make choices based on personal loyalties rather than focussing on carbon emissions. That’s why organisations need to target their messaging at specific audiences to ensure the right messages reach the right people. This can often start with travel policy, which should reflect the organisation’s expectations, but few are updated regularly, and we see policies that are up to four years old, so no wonder the two are not always aligned. This is probably a good time to offer a few tips on creating a great travel policy, take a look here.


With the right technology, organisations have a huge advantage in reaching bookers with targeted messaging. For example, our Meetingspro technology helps meeting planners to identify green accredited venues, so our customers can make better informed choices based on their location and sustainability credentials. The same can be said for travel booking tools, where bookers can be provided with a library of accredited suppliers that tick the boxes for travellers and organisations. Targeted emails can also be deployed to highlight where better booking decisions could have been made.

 

Leveraging the supply chain.

Harnessing the potential of the supply chain has proven to be a complex task for our industry. The accurate calculation of our overall carbon footprint remains elusive due to the lack of emissions data from certain suppliers like car rental and taxi services. Harnessing this crucial information or integrating it into TMC platforms has proven to be a significant challenge.


These gaps in the supply chain pose a considerable obstacle for TMCs in assisting customers in understanding their complete Scope 3 emissions. Without a complete picture, it’s difficult to provide comprehensive guidance. However, while only 35% of our suppliers currently report their own scope 3 emissions, a remarkable 80% engage in charitable activities, generating social value. This could be attributed to the ease and cost-effectiveness of these initiatives, which still satisfy certain requirements.


The collective challenge ahead is to encourage these suppliers to shift their focus towards the CO2 element as well. By emphasising the importance of carbon reduction and integrating it into their existing charitable efforts, we can work towards a more sustainable supply chain that not only creates social value but also addresses the pressing issue of carbon emissions.


Are customers willing to pay a higher price for sustainable travel?

The supply chain is making significant investments in sustainability, but it can’t bear all the associated costs alone. These costs must also be shared by the end user. We calculate that opting for more sustainable travel options would increase expenses by approximately 25%, and for hotels, this figure could rise to anywhere between 30% and 50%. However, once the initial investment has been recovered, suppliers should strive to support customers without constantly raising prices.


At the same time, businesses should not expect to obtain greener products and services at the same prices as in 2019. The world has evolved, and so have the costs involved in sustainable practices. It is unrealistic to expect to maintain the same prices as in the past, just because that was the norm. We believe that most corporations will be willing to pay a 25% premium for sustainable options as it reflects their commitment to their company values.

 

Summary.

Striking the balance can be tricky. Personal choice is a very powerful thing in booking travel as we're influenced by so many of our own influencing factors. So, when it comes to sustainability, encouraging travellers to do the right thing means really understanding your target audience and communicating effectively with them to ensure the greatest chance of success.


Don't forget to reach out to Agiito to learn more about how we're helping customers drive sustainable behaviours across their travel program. Keep an eye out as we dive deeper into the sections above, offering more insight and guidance on how you can support your people in doing the right thing.

 

[1] First appeared in the Green House Gas Protocol of 2001, Scopes are now the basis for mandatory GHG reporting in the UK.

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