With the New York Times and other publications recently reporting that Earth has reached its highest temperature on record for the third consecutive year, some company leaders are working to reduce their firm’s carbon footprint. And while it may not be the most obvious place to start, there certainly are ways they can do so within their travel program — without having to reduce travel at all. Here’s how:
Fostering a green ethos
The real work of creating sustainable practices begins in the office, from the top down. Once a company’s decision makers have made a solid commitment to incorporate more eco-friendly practices and documented their goals, it’s important to communicate to employees why the company is making changes. (For help getting to this point, check out another recent Atlas article.
It also is imperative to educate business travelers about how their choices can impact the environment. From decisions about which hotels they stay in to how they get around once on the ground, your travelers should understand how their selections influence the company’s carbon footprint.
Offsetting carbon emissions
What’s one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your commitment to green practices? Through another kind of green: money.
Demonstrate to your workers how committed the company is to environmental issues by participating in a carbon-offsetting program. When you purchase a carbon offset, you’ll help fund projects that reduce CO2 emissions and counterbalance the effects of air travel.
Get started by contacting your travel management company to see if they can calculate your company’s CO2 footprint (American Express Global Business Travel customers can have theirs measured through the GREEN INSIGHTS analytics program). Once you tally your emissions, you can purchase carbon offsets accordingly from a provider like Carbonfund.org.
Greener air travel
You may want to nudge your frequent flyers toward a couple of options regarding air travel when they are making flight arrangements.
First, one we are sure most of your travelers gladly will accept: booking direct flights. More stops mean more takeoffs and landings, which are a large source of CO2 emissions and fuel use.
This second suggestion is probably only suitable for your most eco-conscious travelers: booking seats in economy even when the travel policy allows them to fly in business or first class — since these premium seats have a bigger carbon footprint.
Business and first class seats take up more space inside the plane, the seats are often more luxurious (and therefore heavier), and all the complimentary stuff that comes with a business or first class ticket also adds weight onboard the plane.
Getting around town
You also should promote to your travelers low-carbon transportation options for getting around once they have landed.
Better yet, encourage your travelers, maybe with some sort of incentive, to take buses and trains in cities known to have a good public transportation system.
If your travelers need to rent a car to get to where they’re going, let them know about rental agencies that offer hybrid/fuel-efficient vehicles.
Booking green hotels
The good news is, more and more hotels are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints. However, some properties do it better than others.
In addition to your usual hotel offerings, you may want to negotiate special rates at hotels that are Green Seal or LEED certified and offer these as options where your travelers can choose to stay. Typically, a venue with these stamps of approval will feature flow-restrictive showerheads, low-flow toilets, energy-efficient lighting and linen programs that reduce waste.
The bottom line is, introducing eco-friendly initiatives not only benefits the planet, but it also can have a positive effect on the workplace itself, helping to boost morale, instill pride in employees, and attract new talent, especially among environmentally conscious millennials who place a high value on working for companies with sustainable practices.