Findings from GBTA’s “The State of Climate Action in Business Travel” report cite awareness, investment and communication as key factors in advancing global sustainability
The time is now for the global travel industry to enact meaningful changes for the climate, according to a newly released report, “The State of Climate Action in Business Travel – Global Industry Barometer 2023,” from the GBTA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). As reflected in the findings, “business travel is at a critical juncture” as the industry continues to adjust to new realities and envisions a more resilient future for global travel.
The report was unveiled today at the 2nd GBTA Sustainability Summit held in Washington, DC, where Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA, underscored the importance of collaboration to facilitate a greener future for business travel. One of the key findings is the industry’s willingness to rise to the challenge: according to the report, 92% of respondents say sustainability is a priority for their organization (up from 89% in a 2022 GBTA report). Based on survey responses, Europe (98%) along with Asia Pacific and Latin America (both 100%) lead in saying it’s a priority, with North America (86%) slightly lagging the other regions.
“Any kind of meaningful impact begins with the knowledge that change is necessary,” said Delphine Millot, Managing Director of the GBTA Foundation. “Engaging business travelers and activating the point of sale to empower them to select more sustainable options will be critical − with corporate travel managers playing a leading role in driving that needed change. But to get there,” she continued, “as an industry we must unify standards and make the investments needed to decarbonize business travel.”
Here are some of the report’s key findings based on a global survey of travel buyers and suppliers:
- Companies are investing in sustainability teams: 71% of travel buyers and suppliers say they have a sustainability team, an increase from last year (66%). While 90% of airlines have such dedicated sustainability resources, this drops to 59% for the hospitality sector, 58% for travel management companies (TMCs), 55% for ground transportation, and 50% for online booking technologies.
- It’s all about reputation – but also impact: For companies, the biggest drivers when it comes to sustainability uptake are reputation management (84%)coupled with a genuine willingness to drive a positive impact for the planet (82%).
- Travel managers are being tasked with reducing emissions for their programs: More than half (54%) of respondents say their company has set either internal or public targets to reduce Scope 3 emissions, which include those from business travel. Another 23% are planning to set such reduction targets.
- Combining trips is seen as a tactic to maximize travel’s return on emissions: 74% of travel managers are encouraging (55%) or mandating (19%) their employees to combine multiple business trips into one.
- Travel managers are not always directly acting on the purpose of travel in their policies: 38% report they currently ask for justification for same-day business trips based on return on investment (ROI) and available alternatives.
- The fastest-growing practice will be activating the point of sale to encourage employees to select lower emission options: Only implemented by 28% of travel managers today, an additional 32% are planning to have sustainability features integrated into their online booking tool.
- Developing consistent industry-wide standards is a priority for travel buyers. Asked to pick five ways in which the industry should accelerate sustainable change (out of 10 possible), a large majority of buyers point to harmonized standards on emissions measurement, accounting, and reporting (requested by 65% of buyers). Meanwhile, 60% of buyers requested that GBTA develop harmonized sustainability questions to be used in procurement.
- A third of travel managers will soon be in the game for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) certificates: While only 18% of travel buyers currently invest in the purchase of SAF certificates, an additional 16% have plans to do so. Of the companies that purchase SAF certificates, 84% do so through airlines. Additionally, 38% say their companies are currently or expecting to purchase carbon credits to offset their business travel emissions.
- Financing the green transition continues to present the biggest challenge for both travel buyers and suppliers in decarbonizing their programs and operations, with “higher costs” ranking as the number one barrier two years in a row.
- Carbon pricing remains a niche: Only 10% of travel managers have established carbon budgets or carbon fees, but this is under consideration by another 23%.
The survey informing the report findings was distributed to the global business travel community, including GBTA members and stakeholders. It was conducted between April 17 and May 5, 2023, resulting in 863 responses from business travel professionals across North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East.
GBTA’s Sustainability Initiative aims to catalyze collective action in the global business travel industry to address and reduce climate change. Last year, 90% of the industry said that GBTA should guide the sector in its sustainability journey. This was reinforced this year by members asking for best practices, case studies, harmonized standards, and research to guide next steps.