While 82% of companies have sustainability goals in place, only 45% have targets for sustainable business travel, according to a survey by BCD Travel of more than 100 travel buyers and almost 1,800 business travelers. Furthermore, only 20% of business travelers are aware of their company’s sustainable travel goals.

Among the top three sustainability priorities, travel buyers name supporting general company sustainability goals; tracking and reporting travel sustainability; and reducing the environmental impact of business travel. Over two-thirds rate these priorities as extremely or very important. Meanwhile, offsetting carbon emissions and satisfying traveler interests are the least important.

In addition to reduced environmental impact (88%), travel buyers see enhanced company reputation (65%) and talent recruitment and retention (46%) among the main benefits of adopting a sustainable travel program. However, more than half mention the extra cost of sustainable travel options as their biggest pain point. Other challenges include traveler education; a lack of standard measurement approaches and definitions; and having the right tools, e.g., online booking tools supporting carbon budgets.

Only one-third of travel buyers require suppliers to have sustainability goals and commitments in place. One-quarter look for suppliers with similar sustainability values and environmental certifications, such as EcoVadis. One-sixth require availability of a carbon emissions calculator, science-based targets and other sustainability metrics. Although most buyers don’t mandate sustainability criteria, around half view them as “nice-to-have.”

While half of companies encourage sustainable travel, only a third promote sustainable options at the point of booking. Reducing travel volumes and traveling by train instead of plane are the top two options promoted by travel buyers. They often also promote taking direct flights instead of connecting flights, combining several trips in one and limiting the number of employees on the same trip. Additionally, travelers mentioned sharing ground transportation and choosing economy class over business class as frequent recommendations by their companies.

During a trip, the most popular traveler sustainability practices relate to hotel stays. Seven in 10 travelers avoid frequent towel changes, and 6 in 10 refrain from using daily housekeeping. Recycling, going paperless with travel documents, supporting local vendors or walking where possible are similarly popular. Some 4 in 10 also mention traveling with only hand luggage and bringing their own reusable water bottle.

While over half of travelers are willing to take fewer but longer business trips, or try new, more sustainable ways of traveling, only 30% are willing to pay more for travel to include carbon offsets or purchasing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

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The surveys reveal regional differences in sustainable practices for both travelers and travel buyers. Companies in Europe/Middle East/Africa focus on reducing travel volumes and traveling by train instead of plane, while flying economy class instead of business and sharing ground transportation are more common in North American companies. Employers in Asia-Pacific often promote direct flights and eco-friendly hotels.