5 ways purposeful travel can help make business travel more eco-friendly

Travelling light and staying close to where your meeting is are just some of the ways business travellers can help to cut down on transit emissions. Picture: Unsplash

Travelling light and staying close to where your meeting is are just some of the ways business travellers can help to cut down on transit emissions. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jan 29, 2024


According to FCM GM Bonnie Smith, cost, carbon and care are the “three Cs” and “pillars of purposeful travel” kick-starting a new approach to business travel in 2024.

Smith said that the traditional “bucket-list” approach is giving way to purposeful trips with specific goals, often centred around self-improvement and responsible travel, while sustainability and community upliftment are increasingly considerations for travellers.

“Likewise, business travellers, particularly younger employees entering the workforce, want their work trips to have a more balanced approach where sustainability is a factor,” said Smith.

The FCM GM also noted that the benefits of a purposeful approach to business travel are clear.

“Costs are kept in check by evaluating if a business trip offers a return on investment. The well-being of travellers is pro-actively protected and supported while travelling, improving productivity and mental health.

“And – as leaders are realising – sustainability is mission-critical for business travel, now more than ever,” said Smith.

She said that CEOs have placed it in their top three priorities for investors and consider sustainability a key competitive advantage according to a new White Paper by FCM, “2024: The Year of Smart Travel”.

Smith breaks down how purposed-led sustainable business travel can become part of your business travel programme.

Know where your green weak spots are

In order to create a travel policy that’s mindful of the environment, Smith advised that you start by understanding how your team currently travels.

“Figure out where they go, why and how often. Analyse spending habits and the modes of transportation and accommodation they prefer. It’s a simple way to spot areas where you can make things a bit greener,” she said.

Decide how green you want to be

“Eco-travel goals will be different for every organisation, so it’s about balancing what is measurable and achievable within a time frame. An achievable goal may be to reduce carbon emissions by 10% by the second quarter.

“Or, it could be committing to increase the number of direct rather than multi-step flights over a period,” she said.

Implement a sustainable travel policy

Smith also advised companies that establishing a sustainable travel policy involves making adjustments to reduce environmental impact, which also may mean minimising non-essential travel through more thorough approval processes, for example.

This, adds Smith, is a key element of purposeful business travel.

“Consider if the trip will help you achieve business or other objectives. If so, give it the green light,” she said.

Get the tech support you need

In order to make your business travel eco-friendly, Smith recommends that you use tools like carbon calculators and dashboards to track your impact or lean on travel management support that can give you regular carbon reports.

Offset carbon emissions

She said that you can compensate for your carbon footprint by supporting environmental projects. “For example, FCM offers access to a range of global offsetting programmes to customers,” said Smith.

Greenify your supply chain

And finally, she said greenifying your supply chain is about working with accommodation and transport providers that prioritise eco-friendliness. A progressive TMC will be able to connect you with suppliers that have the same values as you do.

Smith said that creating a culture of purposeful travel is important, but it’s just the first step, and to really get employees on board, companies need to take it further by educating teams on how to be eco-friendly travellers.

“Encourage your staff to ask if trips are really mandatory. Oftentimes video calls can get the job done without the carbon cost. If travel is required, incentivise staying close to the meeting spot to cut down on transit emissions,” she advised.

She also recommended training employees on reducing their environmental impact on the road by reusing towels, turning off lights and air conditioning or skipping unnecessary cleaning.

“Leading by example is huge too. When execs and leadership model sustainable practices, it sends a powerful message and creating a purposeful travel culture matters, but following up with engagement, education, and incentives is what really empowers people to become purposeful travellers,” said Smith.