Thoughts from Th!nk: Sustainability, Cost, Wellness: Is one more important than the other?
Sustainability is on everyone’s minds for 2022. But while we might be looking to reduce the emissions costs of our business trips, is there a financial and mental cost that outweighs that strategy?
As companies navigate these three different priorities, FCM and GBTA decided to bring the debate to Th!nk. Three speakers presented the case for the three pillars of sustainability, cost and traveller wellness, before sitting down to talk through the impact of focusing on each. Here's a summary of their cases.
The case for cost
Presented by Andy Cassidy, Corporate Travel Manager at AMC Networks
"Travel had obviously significantly reduced and is picking up again. How am I going to convince my CFO to invest into sustainable aviation fuel or that our hotel programme should have more sustainable properties when those costs are rising again? It’s not that I don’t care about the environment, I just worry that it’s a big ask particularly as we come out of the pandemic. At my organisation, most of our travel is for external conferences and meetings which can be expensive. It’s not necessarily booking our preferred hotels and the capacity is tight with airlines, so on top of the effect on cost that those are having, I’m going to struggle to get sustainability focus above cost."
The case for sustainability
Presented by Glenn Thorsen, Head of Partnerships, ThrustCarbon
"We’ve been able to continue to do business with no or very little travel, so it’s not an impossible task. It’s more difficult, it’s a transition but it is something we can do. We’ve found new ways to collaborate and engage, and now it’s a case of how we take those learnings and make sure that we manage the return to travel. There are solutions emerging but we need to make sure we’re championing those and bringing them in to travel programmes.
"I think one of the most important things is data. We need to make sure that we’re using all the data we have and combined with technology that will drive the change. It also aligns with what travellers want; we’re seeing they want to make better decisions. The opportunity is huge."
The case for traveller wellness
Presented by Gilles Trantoul, VP Operations, Amadeus
"If you want to meet a client or your colleagues, Teams and WebEx are okay but business is better in real life. And the recovery is showing that. Travellers need to be in the centre – it’s creating fatigue, it’s not always easy to find the right choices, it’s not easy to go the airport, sometimes there’s delays or you feel lost. We’ve all been there and done that, and now we need something different.
"Travellers have evolved their expectations; they want solutions on the go. Imagine an end-to-end process where everything is smooth. Imagine before booking that you have a recommendation on where and when to visit a client to plan a trip to balance these three pillars. Imagine at check-out you don’t have to pay or submit expenses when you’re home, because it’s been paid for. Technology is changing the game when it works in an ecosystem."
The final thought
During the session we polled the virtual and in-person audience to assess their appetite and priorities. The final result put sustainability slightly ahead on 39%, followed by cost at 32% and wellness at 29%.
As Jo Lloyd summarised, “In the end it’s a balance. As we start to look at policies looking forward, all these three components need to be considered in.”
Table: Compare the three pillars
Inspiration for this Th!nk session came from a popular table graphic that FCM has shared with clients and online. The table weighs up the pros and cons of different initiatives that companies put in place to tackle sustainability, wellness and cost. For example, while using the train may reduce emissions, it is always cheaper, and does it mean a longer journey time, leaving the traveller more tired?