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Carlson Wagonlit Travel is testing new point-of-sale and reporting tools for incorporating green policies into travel management programs. From within self-booking tools, travelers by the second half of next year could have the ability to compare the environmental impact of itinerary choices. For managers, detailed reporting--some of which already is in a pilot phase for some clients--will chart progress in reducing carbon emissions and help refine travel policies and vendor selection.
This development is part of growing industry interest in minimizing carbon emissions and looking after employees. Some say travel management companies and technology providers offer the keysto such efforts in the corporate travel sector. Thus far, those efforts generally have encompassed management reports, reactive carbon emissions offset programs and trip avoidance policies. Point-of-sale technology that allows managed business travelers to actively curb emissions has not been widely discussed.
"There is really hot demand for environmental reporting now, so we'll be launching that soon," said Loren Brown, CWT executive vice president for technology and product management. "Once you put that data in the hands of travel managers, it becomes a question of how you expose that to the traveler and change behavior."
CWT's plan is to include point-of-sale carbon emissions calculations in Horizon, its own self-booking tool, as well as with third-party providers of such systems. "We control our development and product strategy, whereas with the third parties, it becomes a discussion in which we are one stakeholder," Brown explained. "It is not technically difficult, but just a question of where it fits in their overall priorities. I would think by the latter half of 2007 there would be a series of capabilities that we would put into the market."
Those capabilities, as explained by CWT executives speaking last week during an Association of Corporate Travel Executives webcast, would allow travelers to calculate not only carbon emissions based on trip distance and mode of transport, but also elapsed transit time. The system also would determine when travelers are arriving at the same airports to allow for joint ground transportation, and indicate those hotel chains with environmentally friendly policies.
"As we become more advanced, we will activate such elements as aircraft types and seating capacities. These all have a bearing on emissions," said Don MacCallum, CWT product manager for EMEA. "Also, the age of the aircraft ... we recommend customers use an airline operating a fairly modern fleet." Other future enhancements would allow for immediate comparisons between electric and diesel train itineraries, and types of engines--petrol, diesel or hybrid--powering car rental and corporate fleets.
CWT currently is working with the United Kingdom's Department for the Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to implement such point-of-sale decision-support tools. "We are examining how to put in place mechanisms to allow us to capture carbon down to the individual level across all our travel modes," said DEFRA sustainable travel manager Jonathan Green, who spoke during the ACTE webcast and also chairs the Civil Service Travel Group, a new entity designed to identify best practices and sustainable travel policies for the U.K. government. "The booking process is a window to change, showing travelers financial, time and environmental impact of their decisions."
In follow-up emails to The Transnational, Green wrote that while such point-of-sale technology is not yet available, it soon would be. "DEFRA is looking to CWT to assist in the development of user and management tools that will facilitate us in delivering our wider strategic objectives," he wrote. "We want informed travelers who can make informed decisions."
Like several other travel management companies and technology providers, CWT is developing for its accounts post-trip management reports that detail carbon emissions for no additional fee. MacCallum said CWT--which has created its own carbon emissions calculator for its online portal--can customize those reports based on the account's preferred metrics. Basic air emissions reports are nearly ready "and we are putting finishing touches on rail reporting," MacCallum added.
CWT also plans to include in its travel management systems sustainable venue sourcing for event management and videoconferencing technology.
Regarding the former, ACTE said its conference in Barcelona next week would be "the business travel industry's first low-carbon convention." British Airways said it would sponsor carbon emissions offsetsproduced by delegate travel to and from the event by funding renewable energy projects, and ACTE said conference hotels were specifically selected "due to their commitment to environmentally friendly business operations."
DEFRA's Green said the U.K. government is aiming for fully sustainable procurement by 2009. "Carbon allocation may be an emerging form of management and budgetary control," he continued. "We are establishing our starting point now."
DEFRA in February became the first U.K. department to offset carbon emissions from official air travel, one of several methods European organizations are usingto minimize the environmental impact of their business travel. To be expanded across the U.K. government, the initiative is part of DEFRA's larger goal of reducing by 20 percent carbon dioxide emissions by 2010.
Obviously, the most effective method for reducing carbon emissions from business travel is by reducing the number of trips. In announcing its participation in the Clinton Global Initiative, for example, Cisco Systems said it would invest $20 million in collaborative technologies to "reduce the need for physical travel," and attempt to cut its travel budget by $100 million and its carbon emissions by a minimum of 10 percent over the next year.
"Traveling is not always necessary to achieve our business objectives," said DEFRA's Green. "Time spent traveling is a hidden cost that should be factored in." In some scenarios, he added, " 'Why travel?' is the best question. Is it just because we always have? The government mindset is changing."
British goals for carbon reductions would be impossible without curbing overall air transport, according to University of Oxford, which this week issued a study commissioned by the government-funded U.K. Energy Research Centre. "Raising air passenger duty would help to counter reductions in fares, which are estimated to have been responsible for at least 40 percent of recent aviation growth," according to a statement from report co-author Dr. Sally Cairns.
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