The pillars of purposeful travel for businesses

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Cost, carbon, care – these are the “three C’s” kick-starting a new approach to business travel in 2024, says FCM GM Bonnie Smith. She’s dubbing it the “pillars of purposeful travel”.

The traditional “bucket-list” approach is giving way to purposeful trips with specific goals, often centred around self-improvement and responsible travel. 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,” says Smith.

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 wellbeing of travellers is proactively 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. 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. She breaks it down:

Goal: Know where your green weak spots are

To create a travel policy that’s mindful of the environment, 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.

Goal: 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 multistep flights over a period.

Goal: Implement a sustainable travel policy

Establishing a sustainable travel policy involves making adjustments to reduce environmental impact. This 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 says.

Goal: Get the tech support you need

Use tools like carbon calculators and dashboards to track your impact or lean on travel management support that can give you regular carbon reports, says Smith.

Goal: offset carbon emissions

Compensate for your carbon footprint by supporting environmental projects. For example, FCM offers access to a range of global offsetting programmes to customers.

Goal: Greenify your supply chain

This is about working with accommodation and transport providers that prioritise eco-friendliness. Again, a progressive TMC will be able to connect you with suppliers that have the same values as you do.

Creating a culture of purposeful travel is important, but it’s just the first step, says Smith. 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,” Smith explains. “If travel is required, incentivise staying close to the meeting spot to cut down on transit emissions.”

She also advises training employees on reducing their environmental impact on the road: reusing towels, turning off lights and AC or skipping unnecessary cleanings.

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

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