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Is the sustainability movement in business travel here to stay?

April 20, 2021


By Edwin Zijderveld
Manager Business Development & CO2 reporting, atmosfair gGmbH

Photo: Geran de Klerk

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an emphasis on personal reflection and re-evaluation. Behavioral scientists talk about a shift towards authenticity and of congruence of personal values, actions, and work environment. Similarly, it forced organizations to reflect on their business model, with a drive towards sustainability that seems to have taken on a stronger sense of urgency than in the past. The idea of becoming more sustainable was present long before the pandemic but was viewed by many companies as an aspiration rather than a priority. Actions at a smaller level were taken but not necessarily at scale. This we now see clearly evolving: the pandemic has created not only a growing conscience towards a more sustainable approach but also a sense of urgency that wasn’t necessarily there before.

The stronger sustainability drive in society as a whole - with the effects of global warming becoming more visible, the ‘Greta effect’, Paris Agreement, and countries setting themselves ambitious carbon reduction goals - is gaining momentum in the business world too, both by intrinsic motivation and also by regulatory push. In 2020, we saw a growing number of companies adopt carbon reduction targets — an SBTi’s (Science-Based Targets ) analysis finds that the rate of adoption of science-based targets doubled in 2020 versus the period 2015-2019, with over 370 companies joining the SBTi in 2020 at an average rate of 31 per month in 2020.

This trend has led to a stronger need for emissions data in business travel, which would/can enable companies to make qualified decisions and make informed choices about what trips to book and with which modes of transport. At atmosfair we are seeing an evolution of carbon reporting requirements around 3 aspects:

  1. Requirements for more detail down to individual flight and supplier level, not just the total CO₂ footprint
  2. A need for real-time data: It is no longer enough to look at historical total CO₂ emissions. Real-time data enables travelers to make more informed decisions at the time of booking.
  3. A holistic approach to carbon reporting, making emissions data available alongside other relevant travel data in travel management dashboards - such as Average Ticket Price, Average Room rate, benchmarking information, and performance-versus-target.

As an NGO on a mission to make business travel greener, we are thrilled that awareness of sustainability is growing. At the moment, it has to take a back set behind pressing safety and health considerations until the Covid-19 pandemic is under control. Our hope and call to action for the business travel industry as travel returns is to ensure that sustainability considerations play a central role – and that its role will be here to stay. Remember that when the conditions of the pandemic have, hopefully, been overcome, carbon footprint will remain a lasting and increasingly relevant issue for business travel, and one that we must take action on now.

atmosfair is an independent non-profit organization specializing in making business travel greener. As an integrated service provider for carbon offsetting, atmosfair helps businesses measure, reduce, and compensate carbon footprint. Their advanced CO2 emissions calculations methodology is the best-in-class standard for emissions accounting in business travel. CWT Solutions Group travel consulting is powered by atmosfair reporting capabilities, helping our clients design and implement their responsible travel programs.


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