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Canadian business travellers increasingly interested in sustainability: survey

24% would skip business travel if they have environmental concerns

A survey from SAP Concur found a rising number of Canadian business travellers would skip business travel if they have environmental concerns. (Courtesy SAP Concur)

Canadian business travellers are increasingly seeking sustainable options to minimize their environmental impact, and companies must provide greener travel options, according to a survey from SAP Concur.

The Bellevue, Wash.-headquartered company that provides travel and expense management software published the 2023 SAP Concur Canadian Business Travellers Report with Wakefield Research on the issues and trends affecting business travel.

Its more granular look at 250 Canadian business travellers found sustainability concerns are arising as a major deal breaker, with almost a quarter saying they would decline a business trip if they had concerns about the environmental impact of the travel. Over nine-in-10 are looking to reduce the environmental impact of their business travel over the next 12 months.

After being hit hard by the COVID pandemic, business travel is coming back in a different way, with travellers willing to voice and act on their new priorities, such as the environment.

Kristen Hrycoy, SAP Concur’s senior global business partner manager, told SustainableBiz the number of Canadians wanting sustainable business travel will grow and cannot be ignored.

“Over the last couple of years we’re starting to see the surveys showing us that sustainability is really coming into focus more and more and this year’s survey really proves that number is growing. I think that it will be a big focus for quite a while in the industry,” she said.

The survey’s results

Business travel remains a valued experience, with 94 per cent of Canadian travellers responding the future of their career depends on “successful business travel in the coming year,” and 73 per cent willing to do business travel in the next 12 months compared to 63 per cent last year.

Canadian business travellers, SAP Concur found, highly value safety, work-life balance and sustainability, with 90 per cent expecting their company to allow them to make flexible decisions that accommodate those desires.

Thirty-six per cent said they expect to book more sustainable travel options outside of corporate travel policy, and "92 per cent will take extra steps over the next 12 months to reduce the environmental impact of their business travel.”

Some are willing to act strongly. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) would decline a business trip if they had environmental concerns over the travel, which is a one per cent increase from last year.

Hrycoy said companies have different definitions of sustainable travel, but broadly it means travelling in a way that reduces the negative impact on the planet and environment. This could mean taking direct flights over connecting flights, preferring a train over a plane, renting an electric vehicle or hybrid car and staying at a hotel with a sustainability policy.

“We can see that sustainability is top of mind, everybody’s aware of what their carbon footprint is,” Hrycoy said. “So (it) really highlights the growing dedication that they have to eco-friendly practices.”

How companies can facilitate sustainable business travel

More Canadian business travellers are becoming interested in values-based business travel decisions, according to the survey.

Hrycoy said flexibility is key to meeting this demand, as sustainability-minded business travellers may look outside of a company’s preferred hotel if it does not meet their standards.

Companies must map out a sustainable travel policy. This starts with tracking and measuring data with digital tools to see business travel trends in the company’s booking platforms.

Hrycoy said if a company does not know where to start, a good place is by looking at their suppliers and travel management company.

For example, the company’s booking platform should indicate the carbon emissions of their flight, offer airliners that sell carbon offsets, show if a hotel has green certifications and allow for employees to choose travel options outside of gasoline-powered cars.

Perhaps business travel may not even be necessary. The growth in virtual meetings and video calls since the COVID pandemic has drastically changed the landscape. Not only can employees stay home or at the office and take part in video calls as a greener alternative to business travel, it also corresponds with the survey’s findings that employees want work-life balance.

With business travellers being more tech savvy, educated and willing to match their words with deeds, Hrycoy said a more values-driven decision-making process around business travel will continue to increase.

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