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Senior Leadership Drives Shift to Sustainable Business Travel, Study Shows

(Credit: SAP)

Eighty-six percent of businesses across the Asia Pacific region (APAC) say their companies are actively considering sustainability when managing corporate travel, according to a new study by SAP Concur, a provider of integrated travel, expense and invoice management services. And senior leadership is the group driving the shift, the study suggests.

The SAP Concur APAC Sustainability Survey was conducted by Consulting Group – Asia Insight, polling 648 senior and mid-level managers in corporate travel, finance, HR, procurement, and sustainability across Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea.

According to the Air Transport Action Group, aviation is responsible for 12% of CO2 emissions from all transport sources, and the World Resources Institute reported that business travel represents about 15% to 20% of global travel.

Many companies have gone beyond simply talking about sustainability in travel to actually putting things into practice through their corporate travel policies, the study says.

About 56% of the respondents said their “senior leadership” is driving the sustainability agenda for corporate travel. This group comes ahead of “employees” (47%), “those responsible for sustainability initiatives” (47%), and “those responsible for corporate travel” (41%).

The survey also suggested organizations are investing in sustainability outcomes. More than half of the APAC firms surveyed said they committed resources to championing sustainability. About 34% of the firms have someone who manages sustainability as part of their role, while 21% have dedicated personnel handling sustainability.

Despite that intention, businesses outlined a range of priorities for sustainable travel, based on their goals to:

  • Increase operational efficiency (70%)
  • Have positive brand awareness and reputation externally (67%)
  • Cut costs (66%)
  • Some companies also thought sustainable travel policies could become a competitive differentiator in attracting new talent in a competitive market (63%).

But challenges remain. Hurdles organizations faced in implementing a sustainable travel system included:

  • A lack of budget (37%)
  • A lack of employee engagement (32%)
  • A lack of professional tools to visualize the environmental impact of travel (31%)
  • A lack of policy flexibility and adaptability (31%).

Many APAC organizations (71%) already realize they need to harness technology to become effectively sustainable. About 38% currently have software in place to support corporate travel and expense management, while 33% plan to acquire such software “very soon.” About 60% of APAC respondents said they have good or excellent business travel data for their software to analyze.

Booking.com’s annual Sustainable Travel Report, which gathered insights from over 30,000 travelers across 32 countries and territories, also recently indicated that travelers are selecting “planet-first” options and looking to brands for sustainable choices and more purposeful travel.

Many airlines are also prioritizing responsible travel by investing in sustainable aviation fuel, such as United, Southwest, and JetBlue.

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