BCD surveys reveal travel buyer priorities and traveler behaviors toward environmental sustainability in business travel

Despite importance of sustainable travel, companies lack sustainable travel goals  

UTRECHT, The Netherlands, Sept. 28, 2023 – BCD Travel recently surveyed more than 100 travel buyers and almost 1,800 business travelers to gauge the importance of environmental sustainability in business travel. While 82% of companies have sustainability goals in place, only 45% have targets for sustainable business travel. Furthermore, only 20% of business travelers are aware of their company’s sustainable travel goals.

Sustainability priorities

Among the top three sustainability priorities, travel buyers name supporting general company sustainability goals, tracking and reporting travel sustainability, and reducing the environmental impact of business travel. Over two-thirds rate these priorities as extremely or very important. Meanwhile, offsetting carbon emissions and satisfying traveler interests are the least important.

Benefits and challenges

In addition to reduced environmental impact (88%), travel buyers see enhanced company reputation (65%), and talent recruitment and retention (46%) among the main benefits of adopting a sustainable travel program. However, more than half mention the extra cost of sustainable travel options as their biggest pain point. Other challenges include traveler education, a lack of standard measurement approaches and definitions, and having the right tools, e.g., online booking tools supporting carbon budgets.

Selecting suppliers

Only one third of travel buyers require suppliers to have sustainability goals and commitments in place. A quarter looks for suppliers with similar sustainability values and environmental certifications such as EcoVadis. One sixth require availability of a carbon emissions calculator, science-based targets and other sustainability metrics. Although most buyers don’t mandate sustainability criteria, around half view them as “nice-to-have.”

Sustainable travel options

While half of companies encourage sustainable travel, only a third promote sustainable options at the point of booking. Reducing travel volumes and traveling by train instead of plane are the top two options promoted by travel buyers. They often also promote taking direct flights instead of connecting flights, combining several trips in one, and limiting the number of employees on the same trip. Additionally, travelers mentioned sharing ground transportation and choosing economy class over business class as frequent recommendations by their companies.

Traveler behavior

During a trip, the most popular traveler sustainability practices relate to hotel stays. Seven in 10 travelers avoid frequent towel changes, and six in 10 refrain from using daily housekeeping. Recycling, going paperless with travel documents, supporting local vendors or walking where possible are similarly popular. Some four in 10 also mention traveling with only hand luggage and bringing their own reusable water bottle.

While over half of travelers are willing to take fewer but longer business trips, or try new, more sustainable ways of traveling, only 30% are willing to pay more for travel to include carbon offsets or purchasing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Regional differences

The surveys reveal regional differences in sustainable practices for both travelers and travel buyers. Companies in EMEA focus on reducing travel volumes and traveling by train instead of plane, while flying economy class instead of business and sharing ground transportation are more common in North American companies. Employers in APAC often promote direct flights and ecofriendly hotels.

“At BCD, sustainability is core to our vision, mission and values,” said Mike Janssen, BCD’s global chief operating officer and chief commercial officer. “We’re committed to supporting our clients with products and services to help them build and achieve their sustainable travel goals. Our proprietary travel platforms provide meaningful insights to help both clients and travelers reduce their environmental impact. Through the BCD marketplace, travel buyers can tap innovative third-party sustainability solutions or work with our consulting arm, Advito, to set and measure goals.”

Download the buyer survey report and the traveler survey report for the complete survey results.

About BCD Travel

BCD Travel helps companies travel smart and achieve more. We drive program adoption, cost savings and talent retention through digital experiences that simplify business travel. Our 15,000+ dedicated team members service clients in 170+ countries as we shape a sustainable future for business travel. BCD’s leading meetings and events management and global consultancy services complete our comprehensive suite of solutions for all aspects of corporate travel. In 2023, BCD achieved US$20.3 billion in sales. For more information, visit www.bcdtravel.com.