Over the years, environmental and climate concerns have become increasingly important for companies and their employees. Business trips are no exception to this trend; they are directly affected by challenges posed by climate change. Discover the five trends impacting business travel, work trips and the overall travel industry, from measuring and reducing carbon footprints to low-carbon mobility solutions and sustainable accommodation.
1. Business travel by rail makes a comeback
Traveling by train is trending for short journeys, including business trips. Trains are becoming more popular than planes due to lower co2 emissions (it’s estimated that rail transport saves 12 times more energy than air travel). According to a Trainline Partner Solutions (TPS) survey in the UK, 80% of business travellers said trains were an alternative that should be developed, and 45% thought their employer could do more to promote this option. Among those surveyed, one-third had travelled from the UK to Europe by rail in the last 12 months. This figure almost doubled to 59% among professionals aged 18 to 24.
Trains are indeed a valuable option for shorter trips. Even if the journey is slightly longer, this mode of transport has many benefits: staff can work on the way, avoid security checks and skip waiting times at the airport. Generally, when the destination of the business trip is less than 500 kilometres away from the usual place of work, rail is faster than air travel.
To encourage the use of trains for business trips, companies can rely on booking platforms to guide their employees’ choices. For example, Egencia’s Analytics Studio can identify frequently used routes over short distances (such as Paris-Marseille or New York-Washington) to show customised messages like “a train journey is available for this destination; click here to book a train ticket instead”.
With the air/rail comparison tool integrated into Egencia’s booking engine, it’s also possible to automatically display alternative rail options on the flight search page for flight routes in Norway, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, France, the UK, the USA and other countries.
2. Sustainability criteria: Increasingly significant factors when choosing accommodation
Companies and their staff are more interested in choosing sustainable accommodation for business trips. According to a survey conducted by Booking.com in 2022, 78% of travellers said they wanted to stay in sustainable accommodation during the upcoming year—a significant increase compared to 62% in 2016. In addition, over one-third of travellers now consider hotels’ work on sustainable development when choosing accommodation and hotel rooms.
At the same time, hotels are reducing their carbon footprint by aiming to limit waste generation and water consumption and implementing more environmentally friendly practices. It’s a considerable challenge, as hotels must reduce their carbon footprint by 66% by 2030 to comply with the Paris Agreement.
Around the world, governments are also supporting this transition with economic incentives, such as tax deductions, simplified licensing regulations and financial assistance for hotels adopting more sustainable practices and technologies.
To follow this trend, travel managers can rely on tools like Analytics Studio, Egencia’s data visualisation solution that offers scorecards for flights and hotels. They give a real-time overview of CO2 emissions generated by employees’ business trips and professional travels.
3. Rental companies developing hybrid and electric vehicle fleets
In response to the growing interest in more sustainable travel, car rental companies are turning to electric and hybrid vehicles or using alternative fuels. Hertz has taken the lead by ordering a large number of Teslas for Europe and the USA. The rental company already had 50,000 electric cars in early 2023, which is 10% of its fleet. In Europe, the German rental company Sixt announced that it had purchased over 100,000 electric vehicles from Chinese automaker BYD.
Other companies have also acquired them, particularly in France, where the mobility orientation law (LOM) requires businesses and short-term rental companies to have a fleet of over 100 vehicles with less than 10% emitting no more than 50 grams of CO2/km, such as electric or hybrid vehicles. This ratio should increase to 20% in 2024, 35% in 2027 and 50% in 2030. Electric and hybrid vehicles currently represent between 15% and 20% of short-term rental fleets in France.
However, obstacles remain, particularly the limited battery life of these cars and the availability of charging stations. Infrastructure should be improved before this type of vehicle can be rolled out on a large scale. Currently, opting for an electric vehicle still depends on the renter’s mileage; if they are driving less than 60 to 100 km, it’s easier to choose an electric car. Moreover, a conventional vehicle would be preferential to avoid depending on electric charging stations, which are still lacking in France.
To help staff find the most suitable offer for their needs, Egencia has customisable search filters. Employees can reserve a rental car, manage their booking and track progress using the mobile app.
4. Increasing demand for tools measuring the carbon impact of trips
Whether it is in their choice of transport or accommodation, corporate travellers are showing a growing demand for tools and solutions to travel sustainably. This demand is part of a broader approach to measure the entire company’s carbon footprint. In Deloitte’s survey on the future of business travel, 31% of travel managers said that their companies have pledged to reduce their emissions with numerical targets and a precise timeframe, and 79% have taken a stand on the issue in some way. Half of the respondents, therefore, intend to develop their travel policies to help reduce this impact.
According to the American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) 2023 EVP survey, 66% of business travellers in France now claim that they measure their CO2 emissions, compared to 53% in 2022, with a particular focus on air travel and choosing airlines that are the most committed to reducing their emissions. For those who measure their CO2 emissions, the category “air” was the most monitored (by 56% of the group), followed by cars (44%), rail (35%) and hotels (23%). Large companies measure their emissions at 72%, while SMEs/SMIs are at 50%.
With this carbon footprint measurement, companies believe that business travel agencies and travel management companies have a major role to play, with 79% of respondents (+6 percentage points in a year) highlighting the importance of agencies’ role on this matter. In order to address these issues, Egencia offers tools to calculate the impact of flight emissions and offset them in real time when making a reservation, as well as scorecards for travel managers, which takes into account updated data on the CO2 emissions of flight, train and hotel reservations.
5. Carbon budgets: An emerging practice among companies
Measuring your carbon footprint is just the first step. In order to meet the targets for the entire company, a growing number of travel managers are putting accountability mechanisms in place to reduce their emissions from business trips: this is especially the case for HSBC, Siemens and Microsoft.
One of the solutions adopted by these pioneering businesses is the introduction of a carbon budget, which allocates a specific amount of travel emissions that must not be exceeded. For companies using this tool, one of the first steps consists of allocating budgets by department, employee or trip.
Nevertheless, even if the carbon footprint measurement is rising significantly for business trips, CO2 emissions are still the last factor considered when formulating travel policies (59%, according to Amex GBT’s 2023 EVP survey), and only 16% of business travel decision-makers surveyed in France reported having implemented and managed measures to reduce emissions from business trips.
Solutions like Egencia’s Analytics Studio, which offers scorecards to monitor CO2 emissions generated by trips in real time, can be vital in helping companies implement responsible and sustainable travel policies in line with overall environmental objectives while providing a better experience managing business trips.
Our sustainable development advisors are also available to help you set up systems to measure, manage and reduce the carbon footprint of business trips.