Why your business needs a green travel policy
Global warming. Sea levels rising. Coral bleaching. Unprecedented storm surges. There are plenty of natural phenomenon hinting that an environmentally-friendly travel policy might not be a bad idea.
But are they the kind of hints that will get you buy-in from around the boardroom table?
Perhaps – for some companies; those with strong, established corporate social responsibility agendas or brands trading on their environmental credentials. For the rest of us, the board might take a little extra persuasion… so let us help you make the business case.
- If you’re a publicly listed company you need to monitor your emissions
Since October 2013, the UK Government has required all UK-quoted companies to report on their greenhouse gas emissions as part of their annual Directors’ Report, under the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) Regulations 2013.
By necessity, this includes the contribution of business travel to overall emissions.
The Government has published detailed guidance for companies who are publicly listed to help them understand how to monitor and report on greenhouse gas emissions.
It clearly hopes that this move will also encourage smaller businesses to be more aware of and transparent about their own greenhouse gas emissions, and has published similar guidance for small and medium-sized businesses to help them monitor and report on their emissions.
- If you have more than 500 employees you need to report on your environmental policies
EU Directive 2014/95/EU requires large companies to publish reports on the policies they implement in relation to a number of non-financial areas, including: diversity on company boards (in terms of age, gender, educational and professional background); anti-corruption and bribery; respect for human rights; social responsibility and treatment of employees; and environmental protection.
The disclosure requirements arising from the Directive make an important contribution towards the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as contributing to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. In particular, the European Commission expects that greater transparency will lead to “financial flows more consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development”.
It has also published guidance about how this additional non-financial information should be reported.
Don’t think that Brexit will remove this onus: the UK transposition of Directive 2014/95/EU came into force on 26 December 2016, under The Companies, Partnerships and Groups (Accounts and Non-Financial Reporting) Regulations 2016.
The regulations apply to company reports for financial years commencing on or after 1 January 2017.
- The travel industry is making it easy to track environmental performance
The Global Business Travel Association regularly publishes a corporate social responsibility toolkit that offers guidance to businesses about understanding corporate social and environmental sustainability and specific options for action, including a guide to calculating your carbon footprint and ensuring responsible travel management.
Travel organisation ABTA also runs a scheme to help business travellers choose hotels that put sustainability at the heart of their operations. Its Travelife Sustainability Management Scheme was launched in February this year to “support TMCs and corporate travel buyers with their sustainability objectives”.
If you use a Travel Management Company, monitoring your environmental impact and the success of your sustainability initiatives is even easier. Your Travel Management Company will already have tools in place to help you calculate your carbon footprint, and can usually offer advice about the more sustainable business travel options.
- You can help to spread the word
Depending on the purchasing power of your business, your travel purchasing decisions can affect other companies’ green policies – spreading your commitment to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business travel policy throughout your value chain.
- It makes financial sense
With many economies now in recovery, and a series of high profile weather events making the news, plus the release of Al Gore’s latest film, green issues are moving back up consumers’ list of priorities.
This makes enhancing your green credentials a stronger potential source of competitive edge.
Although it must be noted how odd it is that green issues appear to need an economic recovery before they begin to climb back up everyone’s agenda – especially when you consider how aligned an environmentally sustainable business travel policy is with cost reduction.
Policies such making fewer trips, using first-class air travel less frequently, requiring less land to be assigned for staff parking, and other green strategies can have serious financial benefits in terms of cost reduction.
Natural England, for example, set itself a goal to cut its operational carbon emissions by 50 per cent back in 2006. Its strategy included a number of initiatives pertaining to business travel. By 2010, its business travel spend had shrunk from its 2006 total of £4 million p.a. to £2.5 million.
With sensible business travel policies, a clear strategy, and a holistic approach, there is no reason why this success could not be replicated by other businesses.
- You will be enhancing your brand reputation
It’s often the most cited reason for pursuing a green travel agenda, but brand enhancement might be the least convincing around the boardroom table.
However, the obligations and tools we’ve mentioned will help consumers to understand more about the choices they are making. And, as consumers become more savvy about environmental issues, so companies will be forced to move beyond “greenwashing” to demonstrate real environmental credentials.
Not only can you use your enhanced environmental reputation to steal competitive edge, how about ploughing some of the money you save as a result of your sustainable travel programme into other front-end services that will secure further competitive edge?
If you’d like help to understand the impact of your travel choices, your Travel Management Company – or your Travel Counsellor – can help.
If you’d like help developing sustainable travel policies for your organisation, read our next blog for sensible approaches and practical policies you can implement.
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