Taking a purposeful approach to business travel

Travel managers are under pressure to juggle multiple travel program priorities, including traveler well-being, sustainability, and travel costs. Rather than looking at these areas in a silo, a purposeful travel approach brings them together to best support traveler needs and company objectives. Advito sustainability expert Shelley Fletcher-Bryant explains how purpose can transform business travel programs.

A purposeful travel approach considers how to address traveler well-being, sustainability, and travel costs to best support traveler needs and company objectives.

So, what is purposeful travel?

Purposeful travel encourages business travelers to make responsible decisions when booking trips. That may look like condensing a few different trips into one longer trip or converting an in-person meeting to a virtual one. Both scenarios still lead to reduced costs, lower emissions, and improved employee well-being. Purposeful travel considers aspects that affect every travel program, including:

  • The need to travel: Is a trip necessary and does it deliver ROI? Could a virtual meeting achieve the same purpose?
  • Care: How does this trip affect your traveler’s well-being? 
  • Cost: Is the cost of the trip justified, and is there a way to drive savings?
  • Carbon: How does the trip fit within the organization’s sustainability goals, especially in an era where the environmental impact of business travel is top of mind for many?
Shelley Fletcher-Bryant, Senior Director, Sales and Client Relationship Management at Advito. Follow Shelley on LinkedIn here.

Help travelers make responsible choices

From an organizational perspective, a purposeful travel approach means looking at your travel policy to see how it supports and encourages responsible business travel. It means understanding and identifying opportunities to influence choice and change traveler behavior. For example, does your business really need a monthly in-person meeting or will a quarterly trip suffice?

The big decision: Stay or go?

The “stay or go” framework is key to purposeful travel. It helps travelers decide when a trip or in-person meeting is needed and when a virtual meeting is a better alternative. Travelers learn to make educated decisions about how they travel for work or whether they travel at all. The goal is to choose travel for business-critical scenarios, not get rid of it altogether.

Purposeful travel in action with LinkedIn and Finastra

Here’s what purposeful travel looks like in practice with our clients LinkedIn and Finastra.

LinkedIn and the price of pollution

LinkedIn set an ambitious goal to reduce their scope 3 carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. With business travel as the second largest contributor to LinkedIn’s indirect emissions, they needed a strategy that would allow them to accurately measure emissions and mitigate traveler behavior to reach their goals. With Advito’s help, LinkedIn introduced an internal carbon price to influence traveler behavior towards making sustainability-driven decisions. A carbon price is a fee or a tax levied on activities that result in emissions, like business travel. This strategy attributes a monetary value to the climate risks of travel. The higher the carbon price, the more successful it will be at mitigating activities that result in pollution. After working with Advito to determine how to make the biggest impact, LinkedIn decided to implement a $60 per transaction fee on each air ticket.

While the carbon price itself is a progressive, forward-thinking policy, LinkedIn also excelled in their engagement strategy with business travelers and employees from across the organization to promote buy-in and change behavior. For example, “Go Green,” LinkedIn’s sustainability-focused employee engagement program, addresses all three pillars of the environmental, social and governance, (ESG) framework through a series of program designed around upskilling employees for the green economy. The program is so effective that one out of every eight LinkedIn employees is a member of Go Green.

Finastra saves time and money with virtual collaboration

Finastra set ambitious 2030 carbon reduction targets, so it implemented a robust virtual collaboration plan to replace internal travel with virtual meetings where it made sense. This was underpinned by a stay or go framework as part of a purposeful travel approach. The purposeful travel approach drove savings, increased productivity, reduced internal travel and ensured business continuity. This resulted in significant reductions in travel spend, and emissions, putting the company in a good position to meet its goal.

Create your personal travel strategy

Ready to implement purposeful travel strategy for your organization? Categorize the different types of meetings your travelers attend, e.g., reviews, strategy sessions, client sales meetings, etc. Then break down the requirements for each use case, creating a pathway to the best travel choices. For example, choosing rail instead of air for shorter trips in major cities could prove viable and purposeful. The rail trip might save on cost and definitely will save on carbon. It would tick the care box and improve traveler wellbeing by removing the hassle of airport procedures. As a bonus, a rail trip would allow travelers to be more productive. Finally make sure travelers have the information they need when and where they need it. See the quick guide below.

3 steps to a purposeful travel program

1. Asses your business culture

Take a look at whether your current business culture supports switching to more purposeful travel – or whether it could. While travel is still in the process of ramping back up, we believe it’s a great time to reset expectations and cultures to a more sustainable approach. Consider whether business leaders really want to take this approach. If they do, then consider the care, cost and carbon key drivers mentioned earlier.

2. Make decisions easy

Next, figure out your stay or go framework. Ensure that you have robust virtual collaboration options in place, and that it’s clear when trips are justified or not. If a trip involves fixing machinery, clearly that must be done in person. A quick check-in, perhaps not. Some organizations combine plans to host several meetings in the same general area on a single trip. While this makes trips a little longer, it’s also a more environmentally friendly approach than taking several short trips over several weeks. The framework will help everyone consider how they approach travel.

3. Engage and educate travelers

The final piece of the purposeful travel strategy is communicating the approach, so travelers get the information they need when and where they need it. As experts in employee engagement, we’ve found that it’s best to do this across multiple channels and formats: including policies, infographics, videos, webinars, training courses, mobile messaging and via the online booking tool. The point is to give travelers the confidence and information to make decisions in line with organizational goals.

The bottom line is that we can’t do business travel the way we’ve always done it, and we have a great opportunity to take a new direction. Purposeful travel is all about creating a holistic approach to traveling better that delivers on cost, carbon and care. 

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