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Business Travel 2024

How business travel can take flight to a sustainable future

Girl charging electric car parked in the nature area and adjusting an EV charging app on smartphone
Girl charging electric car parked in the nature area and adjusting an EV charging app on smartphone
iStock / Getty Images Plus / 24K-Production

Suzanne Neufang

CEO, Global Business Travel Association

Business travel has always been a force for good, driving progress for businesses, governments, economies and people. To continue driving positive change, it must also prioritise sustainable travel.

Global business travel continues to show strong indicators ahead, with spending forecast to reach $US1.517 trillion (£1.21 trillion) in 2024. In Europe, spending was estimated at $US352.4 billion (£282 billion) in 2023, and the UK ranks as the fifth largest market globally at $US43.5 billion (£34.8 billion). However, can traveling for work — crucial for international collaboration, economic growth and team connection — coexist with the critical need to address climate change?

A future with low or zero carbon business travel is within reach. It will require a shift in how we approach business travel; not as a hurdle to a sustainable future but, rather, as a powerful driver of building it. Here are a few ways to make progress:

Prioritise purposeful journeys

Evaluate every trip through a sustainability lens. Is the trip essential for building meaningful relationships or closing deals? Can the trip serve multiple purposes to optimise efficiency and minimise travel frequency?

Embrace more sustainable skies

Seek air travel options with airlines offering fuel-efficient fleets and using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Support the development and adoption of SAFs made from renewable sources. Advocate for policies that incentivise airlines to invest in cleaner technologies. Replace a flight with a train journey whenever it makes sense.

Champion sustainable stays

Choose accommodations committed to sustainability practices like energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction. Opt for eco-friendly lodgings. Encourage your organisation to negotiate corporate rates with hotels that put sustainability at the forefront.

Evaluate every trip through a sustainability lens.

Make ground travel matter

Prioritise ground transportation options that minimise your carbon footprint. Choose electric vehicles, car-pooling, public transportation or even bicycles whenever possible. Offset any unavoidable emissions through reputable carbon offset programmes that invest in renewable energy.

Be an advocate, not just a traveller

Encourage the adoption of responsible travel policies. Empower travellers to make informed and sustainable choices by providing clear data on different travel options. Communicate with government policymakers on how incentives and clearly defined, harmonised global standards can help drive faster innovation and change within this crucial sector.

Investing in sustainable business travel

At GBTA and the GBTA Foundation, we believe innovation and collaboration will be key to achieving progress, as the travel industry actively pursues and adopts climate-conscious solutions. In the GBTA Foundation’s report, ‘The State of Climate Action in Business Travel,’ 92% of respondents globally and 98% of those in Europe said sustainability is a priority for their organisation. Through action, investment and a commitment to sustainable practices, we can improve the future of both business travel and planet health.

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