Build Sustainability into Corporate Travel Policies

Laura Houldsworth |

The past year has seen a hiatus in international business travel. With meetings around the world moved to virtual platforms, frequent-flyer miles redemption has taken a break too.

Yet with the absence of tourism, global carbon dioxide emissions have fallen, offering significant upsides for the environment. It is no secret that traveling leaves a tremendous carbon footprint, with 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions coming solely from tourism. In recent years, air travel emissions have also increased by an astounding 32%.

Nevertheless, despite this dip, the world is still heading for excess temperature rise and rising sea levels, unless we continue to invest in climate action as part of post-pandemic recovery. With business travel projected to increase in the later part of the year, there is no better time than now for companies to start examining environmental costs in their business travel policies.

Organisations’ role in ensuring sustainable travel

The conversation around corporate social responsibility has only gotten louder in the downturn, and there is more pressure than ever for companies to devote resources into exploring green issues. With the increasing interest in responsible tourism, business travel has become a prime area for companies to put their CSR concepts into action.  

We’ve seen several countries committing to reduce emissions, for instance in the landmark Paris Agreement, where European countries have pledged to reduce emissions by 55%. Closer to home, the Singapore government has targeted to halve emissions by 2050, as outlined in the Singapore Green Plan 2030. These initiatives lay a strong foundation for companies and employees to advance their own green aspirations.

A crucial step that companies can take is to revise their corporate travel policies to reduce emissions.

By integrating sustainability into corporate guidelines, travelers can follow a clear framework and ultimately become more conscious of their activities. Examples of how travel managers can do this include:

  • Fine-tuning existing travel and expense management technologies to encourage more sustainable selections when booking flights, accommodations, or transport.
  • Including a benchmark for measuring sustainable business travel, for example carbon emission reports, to accurately determine environmental cost.
  • Involve employees in the conversations and goals around new sustainability initiatives, preventing any potential gap between corporate ambition and action.

The implementation of new policies can be a potential avenue for lapse in compliance, as adherence to new policies and procedures can prove to be difficult for some. Compliance needs to be built into the heart of the organisation to minimise opportunity costs. 

What SAP Concur is doing

Control and Compliance has always been at the heart of our strategic focus, and that has been our focus to our external and internal stakeholders.

At SAP Concur, we constantly refine our solutions to close gaps in travel, expense and invoice management. The use of intelligent and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, enables us to develop new ways to automate and integrate processes, thus increasing accuracy and control while simplifying the overall management process. With the elimination of hours of mundane efforts, we can ensure that there is greater compliance to the organisations’ policies, and by extension, adherence to the organisation’s goal.

We recently updated one of our offerings, Concur TripLink, to bring bookings made outside of traditional channels back into a managed travel program through the SAP Concur global network of integrated travel partners. Travel managers now have greater flexibility to choose how integrated travel partners are presented and communicated to travelers, in order to better reflect the organisation’s travel policies and prevent out-of-policy spending. For example, an organization could choose to list preferred airlines or hotel suppliers which better align to the company’s goals, within TripLink.

With the amendment of travel policies to better regulate organisations’ carbon footprint, the use of a central platform that can ensure compliance to these policies can keep organisations on the right track to achieving sustainability goals. A central platform can also help to reduce the use of paper as receipts and invoices can be captured and digitalised through the platform.

SAP has a goal to go carbon-neutral by the end of 2023. We believe this is an apt moment to ramp up our sustainability efforts in our fight against climate change.

As a business, we believe it is important to take active steps to show our appreciation for the environment, and we want to help our customers in APAC do the same. We’ve partnered with One Tree Planted, an environmental charity dedicated to creating a healthier climate by planting trees across the world.

For every review of SAP Concur submitted by our APAC customers on the G2 platform, a peer-to-peer review site, we will work with One Tree Planted to plant a tree on the customers’ behalf, in the hopes that we can unite against climate change with large-scale collective action. 

It is critical to reform our consumption behaviour when it comes to business travel. Collective action can only be achieved with individual efforts, and so we must ensure that the choices we make are environmentally conscious for the good of the planet.