Sustainable, attainable, & actionable: green strategies beyond carbon

TL;DR: To move the sustainability needle further, we need to embrace smaller, attainable steps to influence large-scale change.

Let’s start off with some level setting. During FCM’s live education session on sustainability at this year’s GBTA Convention in Dallas, we surveyed the audience. Here’s what we found out:

  1. 60% stated they have a company-level sustainability policy, but not a travel-focused one,
  2. 36% don’t know where to start when it comes to making their travel policy more sustainable, and,
  3. 82% said they were prepared to collaborate with suppliers to improve their travel programme’s sustainability.

It’s clear that travel managers are ready to take the next step toward a greener travel policy. And our all-star panel was ready to point them in the right direction.

Meet the panellists

GBTA Panelist, Ben Park, Denise Naguib, Nashir Hirjee and Glenn Thorsen

From left to right:

Ben Park - Executive Director, Travel & Sustainability Parexel

Denise Naguib - VP, Sustainability & Supplier Diversity, Marriott

Nashire Hirjee - Director, Global Accounts, United Airlines

Glenn Thorsen - Global Sustainability Lead, FCM Consulting

Glenn started off the session by reviewing the phases of sustainability awareness regarding corporate travel.

  • Phase 1 (2017-2018) established carbon measurement standards.

  • Phase 2 (2017 – present) has been focusing on emission reporting, e.g., by aircraft type, hotel ranking, amenities, etc.

  • In Phase 3 (2023 & beyond), the industry needs to pivot its focus to non-carbon elements.

But what do we mean by “non-carbon?”

FCM Sustainability Metrics Infographic

According to Glenn, travellers aren’t concerned with the model of plane they’re flying on, what engines it has, or the wingtip style. All of these things are a bit abstract and can’t be accurately reported on in online booking tools (OBT) anyway. However, the items in the infographic are tangible measures travellers can take to decrease both your organisation’s and their personal carbon footprint.

A buyer’s perspective

Ben acknowledges that these non-carbon strategies are all good options for increasing overall sustainability, but his focus is on influencing his travellers to choose greener options, or “green nudging” as he called it. For example, he confirmed that his car suppliers offer electric vehicle (EV) rental, but travellers are simply not choosing to book EVs due to things like cost and unfamiliarity with EV technology.

Ben’s solution to this? Communicating with travellers that the organisation needs insight into the value of EVs and wants to hear their feedback on the experience. He also reassured travellers that the organisation is prepared to manage the extra cost while they figure out the specific benefits of renting EVs.

An airline’s perspective

While Nashir made sure to focus on the strides United Airlines has made in the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) space (in 2021, United Airlines used 50% of the world’s available SAF), he made sure to highlight the non-carbon efforts they’ve made, and how travellers can get involved. For example, United Airlines has a robust inflight recycling programme – in 2022 alone, they recycled 1.2 million pounds (544,310 kilograms) of material onboard; also, when they replace their seats, they upcycle the materials into things such as duffle bags.

Nashir’s closing thought? For airlines to meet global sustainability needs, they need to focus on short-term wins within long-term, future-proof programmes.


A hotel’s perspective

Denise shared a few small changes Marriott made to make even larger strides in their sustainability efforts. Across Marriott properties, they’ve installed over 1,500 EV charging stations. Marriott also eliminated sample-size bathroom toiletry bottles in 95% of their hotels, replacing these small bottles with full-size ones. This decision was made because the smaller bottles weren’t recyclable, and in 2019 alone Marriott threw away 500 million of them.

However, Denise stated that her biggest focus is on food waste. To set the stage, she provided the following sobering statistics: 10% of the world’s global emissions come from food waste, and 40% of the food we produce is never eaten. Ben also chimed in to say that this is a priority for his organisation’s travel programme as well, and that he encourages his travellers to eat at least one vegan or vegetarian meal on their business trips. Nashir added that preordering your in-flight meals also helps to reduce food waste by giving airlines an accurate picture of how much food they need to prepare.

Take non-carbon sustainability steps at your organisation, today.

Spend some time speaking to your travellers about the small choices they can make while booking their trip and travelling. Share this non-carbon measures infographic to remind them of all the ways they can make a difference, and that if we all try, we can create substantial change and ensure our planet stays vibrant for the rest of our lives. Here’s to greener travel in 2024 and beyond!

Did you attend GBTA Convention 2023 and miss out on the session live? Log in with your registration details to watch the whole presentation.

 Watch now