The article includes views from Kathy Jackson, Vice President, executive chair sustainability at BCD Travel; Amélie Losanes, senior consultant, sustainable collaboration at Advito, and Shauna Whitehead, Vice President, sales, at BCD Meetings & Events. They discussed airlines and hotels investing in sustainable options, initiatives by the meetings and events area and what travelers can do to reduce their environmental impact.
Here are some excerpts:
- Sustainability in air travel: According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel accounts for approximately 8 to 11 percent of global emissions. During the pandemic, overall global emissions decreased by 4.6 percent, the biggest drop in world history, but due primarily to reduced airline operations. “Air travel is the largest contributor to business-travel related carbon emissions, so it’s no surprise that most airlines are focused on sustainability right now,” explains Amélie Losanes, senior consultant, sustainable collaboration at Advito. “One of the most effective things airlines can do is accelerate fleet renewal.”
- Hotel: “On a business trip, 80 to 90 percent of emissions come from air travel, and maybe only 5 to 10 percent from the hotel,” Losanes said. But even though a hotel plays a smaller role in CO2 emissions, collective action on their part can create huge impacts in other areas, such as food sourcing and water conservation.
- Meetings & Events initiatives: While the sustainability conversation tends to focus on airlines and hotels, the meetings and events arena has launched its own tools too. According to Shauna Whitehead, VP sales at BCD Meetings and Events, “BCD Meetings & Events and Advito offer a carbon emissions calculator for events that can accurately measure your emissions from travel and other event activities, putting the power in your hands to determine what actions you can take to reduce them, or provide insight on whether cutting down your event size is a smarter choice. It also includes emissions from videoconferencing, an important component to consider if you’re planning a virtual or hybrid event.” Nevertheless, challenges still abound. “While it’s clear that strong awareness around sustainability is critical toward taking action in the meetings and events industry, the challenge is finding the resources to put adequate focus behind it. In 2022, cost and availability will still be the biggest drivers of event decisions. We are not to a point where all organizations are comfortable with an event that’s greener but more expensive. However seemingly little actions, such as opting to serve a vegetarian entrée over steak or choosing shared transportation over a private charter, add up,” said Whitehead.
- Smart choices for travelers: “Making green business travel choices isn’t always easy,” said Kathy Jackson, VP, executive chair sustainability at BCD Travel. “It needs behavioral changes. Companies can start with small steps to involve their travelers in their sustainability efforts and encourage green travel. Whether its educating travelers on eco-friendly hotels or the benefits of using public transport, transparency is king. Without it, travelers are likely to be subject to greenwashing (i.e., when hotels and other travel businesses ‘pretend to be green’ in an effort to capitalize on traveler demands for green options). Thus, consumers need to practice caution. The act of not washing towels daily or providing locally sourced, cage-free eggs for breakfast, doesn’t make a hotel sustainable.” Jackson also suggested ways travelers could reduce their environmental impact during trips, including booking direct flights, flying economy when possible, and choosing shared rides, public transportation, or hybrid rental cars where feasible.