Deborah Saunby's blog: How to develop an eco-friendly travel policy
20 March 2020
As awareness of environmental and sustainability issues grow, many organisations are looking to take a more active role in managing their carbon footprint.
By Deborah Saunby, sales and marketing director, Selenity.
Whether it's attending meetings, visiting clients or jumping in a cab from the airport, business travel can quickly increase a company's environmental impact. Although sometimes unavoidable, there are steps that can be taken to reduce emissions and make the travel and expenses process more sustainable.
Sustainable business travel needs compliance
A commitment to the environment and society is increasingly on everyone's agenda. Last year the volume of businesses striving for B Corporation status grew. The B Corp movement started around 12 years ago and awards certification to businesses that meet the highest standards for social and environmental performance, working to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
With some businesses looking to uphold their certifications and others taking steps to more sustainable practices, it's become more important than ever for businesses to have technology in place that gives them visibility of their business travel. Whether it's reporting on the carbon footprint carved out by employees or looking at the most frequently used methods of transportation. Having this overview is the key to helping businesses make proactive change. As it allows them to take stock of current practices and use that information and data to make better, more informed decisions for the future.
Digital expense software that mirrors the businesses travel policy is an easy way for businesses to gain this increased transparency. The software provides organisations with the opportunity to put travel and expenses under the microscope. Allowing them to analyse current travel policies or introduce more economical and carbon friendly alternatives. A heighted level of visibility across employee travel arrangements can help to reduce costs and create more environmentally friendly approaches for the future.
Reviewing travel across the board
A digital expense management solution also presents employees with the companies travel and expense policy and integrates it with the claiming process. This enables staff to make fully informed decisions before making a travel purchase they intend to claim for. With policy reminders and warning flags, employees are encouraged to make the right choices, every time.
By capturing travel and expense data in one place, it's much easier to drill down into individual areas of spending and habitual claiming behaviours. For businesses, travel and expense costs are one of the top three areas of expenditure but they are also ripe for savings and sustainability initiatives. Reporting on travel and expense spend not only provides a heighted level of visibility but also enables informed decision making, helping businesses identify areas for cost reduction, sustainability savings and policy change.
A great example of this is travel between multiple sites. Analysing the cost of employees travelling between offices or sites could lead to the introduction of more efficient and sustainable alternatives. Running shuttle buses, car sharing and even holding meeting through video conferencing services like Skype, not only reduce CO2 emissions but also relieve parking congestion and save money.
Put a clear travel policy in place
Typically, when employees are booking travel or planning journeys most decisions are based on convenience and time efficiency but not always environmental sustainability. To make positive changes and switch to low-carbon alternatives it's important that businesses understand the full costs and impact of travel - keeping an eye on travel and expenses is the best way to reduce them.
Mapping out current travel practices not only allows businesses to identify areas for sustainability savings but can also help to shape and guide future travel policies. If balancing purpose and profit is high on the priority list then businesses should keep these objectives in mind when drafting a new or updating an existing travel policy.
Ultimately, policies are the foundation of business travel so it's worth putting in the effort up front to set out the considerations employees must follow when booking and traveling for work.
Putting paper aside
Switching to digital alternatives and going paperless can also have a really positive environmental impact as well as helping businesses to streamline processes and increase employee productivity. Not only does it stop organisations from printing and storing file boxes full of paper but can additionally help to deliver cost savings and encourage employees to be more mindful and recycle the paper receipts they do use.
For instance, with online and mobile based expense systems automating the process from beginning to end, employees no longer have to spend time filling in expense forms and sifting through paperwork. Instead they can upload electronic receipts and take pictures of the paper ones on their phone, submitting claims from anywhere at any time. Going digital is often the first step on the ladder for many businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
The first step to an environmentally friendly travel policy
The issue of environmental sustainability is here to stay. For businesses looking to take a more proactive role in managing their carbon footprint as well as supporting and achieving certification, the first step is gaining visibility. Having a holistic view of business travel is key to helping organisations understand where sustainability savings can be generated. By understanding the travel choices that employees make, business leaders will be able to design and implement low-carbon alternatives that work for employees. Ultimately, enabling them to achieve their business sustainability objectives in the long-term.