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“Companies know sustainability is important, yet many struggle to find the staff and time necessary to push things forward,” said Kathy Jackson, vice president and executive chair of sustainability at BCD Travel, especially when it’s not a top-down mandate.

“Another challenge is that for many companies, budget still ranks higher than sustainability, meaning people aren’t (yet) making decisions based solely on environmental concerns. Not all companies are comfortable with travel that’s greener but more expensive,” she said.

That’s the case for FLSmidth group category manager Meret Minnet. She said her KPIs are still driven by cost savings.  

Based in Copenhagen, the company has signed on to science-based targets to reduce GHG emissions and created a MissionZero initiative to enable customers to move towards zero emissions by 2030. Business travel accounts for 0.1 percent of the company’s carbon emissions and is therefore not currently an area of concern.

Nevertheless, carbon-conscious travelers are requesting more sustainable options, so Minnet is working to integrate features like emissions calculators and carbon budgets into her Egencia booking tool. 

And for markets with less awareness, she is working with Thrust Carbon to create sustainable hotel and flight packages that illustrate carbon metrics in a more relatable, user-friendly manner.

“The sustainability team [does not] have resources for travel, so I’m working behind the scenes to be ready because if we want to achieve net zero by 2030 we’ll need to go the extra mile at the end,” she said. Until then, Minnet’s sourcing priorities are price and convenience, especially since routing options post pandemic remain limited. 

All the TMCs BTN spoke to said there is a sliding scale of maturity among clients, largely influenced by geography and cultural differences. Travelers in Europe are the most environmentally conscious and therefore sustainable travel policies there are more advanced (also due to regulation such as the EU’s emissions trading scheme). Travel managers in North America are playing catch up.

“There needs to be more education,” S&P’s Dery insisted. “A lot of buyers don’t understand what a sustainable travel program looks like and what it actually means. We’re still getting our sea legs when it comes to sustainability.”

That said, GBTA’s Millot believes the race to net zero is ‘in motion’ and points to the Science Based Targets initiative, where around 100 of the 3,000-plus corporations who’ve made commitments have unveiled targets specific to business travel. And according to the organization’s recent survey, 67 percent of travel buyers believe the industry should commit to a collective climate target.

Ultimately, traveling sustainably is everyone’s business. 

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