Sustainability Blog

Boss-Level Business Travel: Environmental Impact Increasingly Important

By Apurva Gosalia - Aug 19, 2022

In the 2020 sci-fi movie Boss Level, a retired special forces soldier stuck in a never-ending time loop eventually escapes through persistent trial and error. Similarly, a study on business travel called “Chefsache Business Travel 2022” (Chefsache means “boss” in German) reveals that at last, boss-level management teams in German companies have escaped the dilemma loop of necessary business travel and mitigating the environmental impact.

The German Travel association and market research institute Schlesinger Group Germany conducted the survey earlier this year. They asked 100 managing directors who regularly travel on business and 100 business-traveling executives and specialists from companies with 250 or more employees about their travel habits. Among them were also senior managers from the chemicals and lubricants industries. 

The survey found that after two years of lockdowns, the number of business trips is rising again and so is environmental awareness. As the lubricant industry’s in-person conference calender starts to fill up again, it could be time for both companies and event organizers to make offsetting travel emissions as an essential part of the process as booking the hotel.

“Going green is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s an absolute necessity for businesses. However, the maturity stages of clients’ business travel programs vary widely,” said Alexander Albert, managing director of BCD Travel Germany, a business travel and logistics company.“ Cost continues to play a major role, but is increasingly taking a back seat when it comes to doing the right thing.”

In 2022, there will be more travel again, but not to the extent as before the pandemic. According to the survey, 60% of company representatives say that business travel is being replaced by virtual meetings. This is not only sustainable, but also serves to reduce costs. 

However, doing without face-to-face meetings altogether is not an option. Almost 40% said they attach great importance to getting to know people in person, especially at the first appointment. 

The survey also foun that 56% of companies with 250 or more employees take ecological and social standards into account when making bookings for business travel. That is 6 percentage points more than at the beginning of 2019. Two-thirds of business travelers try to combine several appointments on business trips, an increase of 5 ppts. 

The larger the company, the more pronounced are efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Only 47% of companies with 250-500 employees have initiatives to reduce emissions from travel whereas 67% of companies with more than 1,000 employees have. 

The situation is similar when it comes to including sustainability and COreduction topics in corporate guidelines, with 64% of large companies saying they have and 45% of smaller companies. In addition, 38% of companies with fewer than 500 employees and 61% of companies with more than 1,000 employees have travel policies on sustainability or informal guidelines that serve this goal.

The sustainability effect is particularly pronounced in companies that work with business travel agencies. For 58% of companies that have their travel needs met by a specialist service provider, sustainability plays a major role in the booking process. This is compared with 47% of those companies without professional support. 

The frequency of business trips also matters. Of those who travel every other month or less on average, 44% aren’t as concerned with the trip’s environmental impact. Whereas that percentage of 64% of those that travel one or two times a month. Among frequent drivers with three or more out-of-town appointments per month, three out of four respondents make sure to adopt environmentally friendly behavior.

Lastly, companies’ environmental awareness extends to the details, too, with 54% of travelers only carrying digital documents instead of paper. That represents an increase of 5 ppts compared with 2019. Every little bit helps, but more is always better.

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