5 ways you can be a more sustainable business traveller

Illustration of business woman with suitcase to illustrate a sustainable business traveller

Despite uncertain times, business travel is accelerating unabated. How can you keep making those crucial trips to meet important clients and preserve your company’s green credentials?

Business travel shows no sign of slowing down – according to the Global Business Travel Association, it rose by 7.4 per cent in the UK in 2016. Face-to-face contact is, of course, an essential part of good business. At a time when many spend their days basking in a screen’s blue light, meaningful human interaction can be vital. But while businesses need to stay on the move, it’s about striking the right balance.

The topic of climate change is unavoidable. By 2030, global water demand is predicted to outstrip supply by up to 40 per cent. Sustainability is increasingly important to consumers and employees, especially as the ethos-driven millennials start to dominate. Yet, for example, air travel accounts for 59 per cent of PwC’s total carbon emissions.  So how can businesses be kinder to the environment and future generations?

Get suppliers in line

Whatever size your business, making sustainability a central component of your travel policy is an excellent place to start. Litter your request for proposals with green language – demand that suppliers report on carbon emissions, dig deeper into supply chains, ask travel agents for a responsible travel statement and check which airlines are most efficient. See the Know How Guide on responsible procurement

Travel smart 

Get the most from those air miles – combine multiple meetings and events into one trip; encourage employees to have ‘bleisure’ breaks by tagging holidays onto the end of business trips; and always send the minimum number of people. Domestically, try to use trains, since short flights are the least fuel-efficient (Eurostar to Paris, for example, uses 91 per cent less carbon than
a plane). Try eco taxi companies, such as Green Tomato Cars, and walk or use public transport.

Engage, educate, celebrate

Sustainable practices are easier to implement if everyone has bought in. Tools such as BCD’s ‘sustainability in travel self-assessment tool’ allow organisations to measure themselves – making it easier to set targets and incentives. Meanwhile, platforms such as Do Nation let employees pledge their own sustainable travel commitments and celebrate the champions.

Lead by example

Beyond corporate policies and targets, the onus is increasingly on us all to contribute where we can. When travelling, drink tap or filtered water where safe. Take reusable shopping bags, buy local products and services and favour ethical suppliers. If time allows, seek experiences with a social purpose such as Mumbai’s Reality Tours or walking tours with London’s Unseen, which works with the homeless. It could enrich your perspective.

Book a sustainable hotel

With so many places around the world making inspiring sustainability commitments, there’s no excuse not to seek one out. Boutique eco-enthusiasts include The Zetter in London, which has a 1,500ft borehole beneath the building to help make it self-sustaining; The Vineyard in Cape Town supports the heartwarming social initiatives of Our Kids of the Cape Fund. Even some chains are doing their bit – Mélia’s hotels in Italy are powered entirely by renewable energy while Hilton’s volunteers have provided 291,000 hours to community projects around the world.

For more on responsible business travel visit bouteco.co


Headshot of Holly Tuppen, author of how to be a more sustainable business travellerWho Holly Tuppen

Education MA in modern history at Oxford University

Current role Bouteco, which she recently set up with Juliet Kinsman, founding editor of Mr & Mrs Smith, to “spread the word about boutique eco heroes and hip hotels with heart”.

Earlier career Editor of Green Hotelier, where she spent much of her time “on hotel rooftops inspecting wind turbines, herb gardens and beehives”. Through the International Tourism Partnership, she worked with some of the world’s largest hotel brands to help conserve water and energy, employ disadvantaged young people and protect human rights.


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Director magazine

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