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Is the travel industry all talk and no action when it comes to the environment?

83% of programmes do not offset air related carbon emissions
Statistics from a recent poll of European travel buyers hint at an industry split in two. While the results indicate support for more ethical travel, the numbers imply a need for less talk and more action, and it is actually the travellers, not business, who are pushing for programmes to be more sustainable.


60 per cent of buyers who responded to the Business Travel Show survey admit they do not have an ethical travel programme. While 28 per cent plan to introduce one, one quarter believe it’s simply too costly and 8 per cent have no intention to disrupt the status quo.

Of the 39 per cent whose programme IS deemed ethically conscious, one fifth restricts trips that are not 100 per cent essential and a further 21 per cent are switching from air to rail. 29 per cent believe that air miles should be banned for encouraging unnecessary air travel.

However, just 17 per cent currently offset aviation-related carbon emissions (26 per cent plan to) and 27 per cent share information about carbon emissions with travellers (26 per cent plan to do that, too).

Three quarters of buyers polled have welcomed the UK Government’s Net Zero legislation, which aims for the country to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, with one quarter feeling it’s long overdue and a further 21 per cent saying it doesn’t go far enough. However, 12 per cent are unaware of the new law, one in ten thinks it’s unfair on the airlines and 9 per cent believe the timescale is unrealistic.

The 114 European travel buyers who contributed also admitted that travellers are driving the push towards a more sustainable travel programme (39 per cent), followed by procurement at 24 per cent. Just one in ten pinned responsibility to their CSR and sustainability teams.

Amnesty International UK economic relations programme director Peter Frankental who is speaking at Business Travel Show commented: “The survey provides further evidence that too many businesses have their head in the sand when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint. Given what we know about climate change, there is no excuse for any company to ignore the impacts of its travel arrangements.”   

Taptrip cofounder Neil Ruth added: “Climate change awareness is not just the responsibility of travellers. All humans have a responsibility to be eco-friendly and live as sustainably as possible. There’s a plethora of innovation to support this; adoption of alternatives and making smarter choices will become even more prominent. At Taptrip, we are a paper free business, we have ditched the business cards, pool ride with each other when that’s an option and are always conscious and considerate of environmental choices. Our loyalty programme also allows for travellers to donate their rewards to a charity that offsets carbon footprint.”

The following conference sessions are taking place at Business Travel Show:
Tuesday 25 February, 1350-1500: Is it time to introduce an ethical travel programme?
Mounting pressure from well-organised protest groups, investors and employees means companies need to re-think how their business travel affects the environment and human rights. But how can travel managers help their companies become more socially responsible, and can there really be such a thing as an ethical travel programme?

Wednesday 26 February, 1000-1100: Car rental – Save money, go greener with travel purchasing’s fastest-changing category
If you haven't updated your car hire programme recently, it's time for another look. Telematics, car sharing, car clubs and electric vehicles are just some of the major innovations transforming pricing, operations, sustainability and duty of care priorities. Come and learn how to get maximum value out of a swiftly evolving supplier base.

The survey results in full:
Do you have an ethical travel programme?
Yes – 39%
No, but we plan to – 28%
No, it’s too expensive – 25%
No, and we don’t plan to – 8%

How ethically conscious is your travel programme? (For those who have said yes to earlier question)
We consider its impact on the environment and make choices to limit this – 42%
We are conscious of the human rights impact of our travel programme and make choices to limit this – 16%
We opt for rail over air travel – 21%
We restrict how travel to overseas meetings – 0%
We restrict trips that are not 100% necessary to the sustainability of the business – 21%
We have banned all air travel – 0%

Should airmiles be banned for encouraging unnecessary air travel?
Yes – 29%
No – 65%
I don’t know – 6%

Does your company offset aviation-related carbon emissions? Yes – 17%
No – 57%
Plan to – 26%

Do you offer travellers info on carbon emissions?
Yes – 27%
No – 47%
Plan to – 26%

What do you think about the Government's Net Zero legislation (to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050)
It's very welcome and not before time – 25%
It's very welcome and 2050 seems a realistic time scale – 23%
2050 is an unrealistic timescale - we need longer – 9%
It's welcome but it doesn't go far enough - more needs to be done and sooner – 21%
It’s unfair on the airline industry which is already working hard to cut emissions through the CORSIA scheme – 10%
I'm not aware of the legislation – 12%

Who’s most interested in sustainable travel?
Travellers – 39%
Procurement – 24%
C-Suite – 20%
CSR/Sustainability team – 10%
Bookers - 7%


The Business Travel Show takes place at Olympia London from 26-27 February 2020.

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