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​Building Back Better: 5 steps to a responsible travel program

December 11, 2020

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By Helene Buchfinck, Snr Manager, Global Products, CWT Solutions Group and Akshay Kapoor, Head of Sales, Asia Pacific , CWT

Photo: Michael Olsen

The pandemic has shaken our industry to the core, but this allows us to re-envision what we want business travel to look like in the future. As we emerge from this crisis, we have a unique opportunity to build a better future, taking a more balanced approach to travel management that embraces climate impact and wellbeing measures.

There’s evidence that the pandemic has led to a growing conscience towards a more sustainable and responsible approach to doing business. Many governments have called for a green recovery and have included “green” recovery measures in their crisis recovery packages through grants, loans, and tax relief directed towards green transport, circular economy, and clean energy research, development, and deployment (Preliminary OECD estimates suggest these amount to about USD 312 billion).

The pandemic has also brought environmental concerns to the fore in the public consciousness, as the enforced pause on industrial output and travel have resulted in cleaner air. CO2 emissions are estimated to be at the lowest level in 14 years. By taking action today we can change the dialogue to ensure the biggest change to come out of 2020 is a more responsible focus on employee well-being and climate impact in the business travel space.

Here’s a 5-step framework towards a more responsible travel program.

  1. Define
    Defining clear and measurable goals is the first and most important step in the responsible transformation of your travel program. Even seemingly intangible concepts such as sustainability and traveler well-being have a way of being measured. From traveler satisfaction scores and employee retention statistics to carbon footprint and reduction monitoring, there is always a way to apply tangible targets to measure the responsible elements of your travel program.
  2. Align
    Once your goals are set, you can get started on the process of mapping the path to your goals. It’s great to know where you want to be, but often in areas of responsible business, we might not know where we stand today. While target setting helps you define your ‘end’, an assessment of your current state will help you define your ‘start’.

    Quality data is essential for this stage. Consolidate data sources such as travel management company and expense data to get a full view of your current travel program. Integrate HR data to bring insight into employee behavior and incorporate CO2 emissions data to understand the climate impact and overall carbon footprint that your company’s travel produces. Keep data as detailed as possible, to see trends, and identify the best areas to make impactful change.
  3. Assess
    Achieving responsible travel goals cannot be done without aligning to supply partners that share your values. When working with supply partners or conducting sourcing exercises, discuss and measure all elements of the partnership as they relate to your organization’s triple bottom line of people, profits, and the planet. By not focusing on spend and volumes alone, we open up doors to stronger partnerships with our suppliers.
  4. Report
    Data drives decisions. Ensure you have the most comprehensive and accurate data possible to monitor your progress toward your responsible travel goals. Different numbers will resonate differently with members of your organization. Be mindful of which reports you are sharing with stakeholders and try to make reports as relevant as possible. Colleagues can use this insight to make incremental changes to better manage the way travel is conducted in their department.
  5. Take action
    It starts with education. The more travelers know about their ability to influence change through their travel behaviors, the better choices they can make the next time they book.

As vaccine news promises a brighter 2021, a transformation to a responsible approach to travel will be one of the most rewarding changes you can make in the New Year.

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