In July, global spend optimisation company Emburse released the findings of its latest research on attitudes towards sustainability amongst British business travellers. The Censuswide survey of 1,003 employees and 254 employers asked where sustainability fits within the business travel agenda, as trip volumes approach pre-pandemic levels.  The data showed that while the environment is front of mind for many companies and their travelling employees, the majority are yet to turn good intentions into concrete actions, and are placing the onus on the other to implement sustainable travel. 

According to the report, 38 per cent of businesses reported increased investment in sustainability, with 71 per cent reporting a formal sustainability policy or guidelines. However, only 37 per cent of these businesses enforce these policies during bookings and travel expense approvals. 

Only one in six employees cited sustainability as their key priority when making travel plans, significantly below cost and traveller convenience. Whilst environmental concerns remain a low priority during the booking process for business travellers, 71 per cent said their employer should do more to enable sustainable travel. Meanwhile, the majority (76 per cent) of employees also agreed they would take a more sustainable mode of transport if financial incentives or sustainability programmes were available.

Since Emburse’s 2021 survey looking at sustainable business travel post-pandemic, employee demand for sustainable travel incentives has risen by 19 per cent. The 2021 data also found only one in nine (11 per cent) employers had listed sustainability as an important factor for business travel arrangements. Two years on, cost is ultimately the most important factor when booking business travel for businesses and employees. 

Jeroen van Velzen, SVP Travel & Mobility at Emburse, commented:

“Business travel has defied expectations by seeing an almost complete return to pre-pandemic levels. But we can’t just go back to business as usual regarding emissions. Businesses and travellers both need to work on reducing their carbon footprint. It’s promising that more organisations are putting sustainability guidelines and policies into place, but this data shows we still have a long way to go until it becomes a priority. 

“Whilst travel managers could strictly enforce their companies’ policies to help achieve carbon goals,  this heavy-handed approach risks alienating travelling employees. Educating travellers about the impact of their trips in easy-to-understand terms – like how many houses could be powered by the energy used on a trip – can lead to much higher levels of compliance. Employers need to provide employees with tools to make smarter decisions, and employees need to use that insight to make more environmentally friendly travel plans. We must move beyond paying lip service to environmental issues and turn good intent into meaningful action.”