< PrevNext > Sustainability in Business Travel: Is it Finally Time? By Serko SVP North America Tony D’Astolfo / January 24, 2020 Share Sustainability is a hot topic everywhere you look. It’s in international and federal politics with the Paris Agreement and Green New Deal. It’s in local communities given concerns about the impact of over tourism. Travel suppliers are pushing aviation biofuel initiatives and reducing plastic bottles at hotels. Given the ubiquity, is my question nonsensical? Of course, it’s time—it’s long past time for sustainability to become a cornerstone of business travel. Why ask now?I’ve seen a thing or two when it comes to business travel. We’ve had the opportunity to drive more sustainable behavior for a long time, but we haven’t done it. Eleven years ago, the following excerpt was published in Design News:Rearden Commerce has produced a green-focused personal assistant that provides business travelers and organizations with a “Total Green Travel Experience” when booking travel and related services. The assistant’s functions include a “Carbon Calculator,” hybrid car services and Web and audio conferencing.The tool is designed to help users save time and make green travel choices. The Carbon Calculator shows users “Did You Know” factoids on the amount of emissions produced by the flight they’re booking. The assistant then offers the user a convenient and ecofriendly option of booking an audio or Web conference as an alternative. If the user clicks on the link and takes advantage of the alternative, the calculator shows the number of pounds of carbon dioxide that have been saved from entering the atmosphere.The effort my former company made, at considerable cost, was extremely well received. People lauded our forward thinking and for providing a vehicle not only to raise awareness but to provide actionable sustainability. But guess what? We got very little takeup at either the traveler or company level. You could argue the tool was clunky, or Rearden was a small part of the business travel landscape, or other sustainability initiatives had impact. If we take a step back, though, has anything actually changed?Whether you believe global climate change is a real threat is not the point, and whether there are options available for companies and individuals who want to be more sustainable is also not up for discussion. My question is focused on whether you think sustainability’s time has come in business travel. I think it has, and here’s why:Economic impact: Economically, something as simple as using less fuel is good for business. Airlines have been doing that for years. Finding ways to recycle is cost-effective, and today’s technology is better at doing it.Social awareness: Eleven years ago, Facebook was relatively new and Twitter and Instagram weren’t around. Social media has changed the way we do everything and more importantly how we talk about things.Personal responsibility: Today’s business travelers and travel managers have changed. We’ve seen a rise in the percentage of Millennial and Gen-Z business travelers as well as in corporate management roles. These generations are more aware, interested and engaged in all things climate. That, combined with the power of social media to both communicate and shame, suggests their voices will have impact.So, is the time now? Yes—but I’m still a bit of a skeptic. I’m not sure any generation of traveler would willingly fly in the less-carbon-impactful economy section on their next eight-hour, overnight international trip, but maybe these new travelers will prove me wrong. What do you think? Is sustainability in business travel here, or are we all just full of hot air again?