As we know, business travel isn’t all champagne and business class seats. In fact, for many of us, it’s never that. On the negative side it can sometimes be hard on health and can occasionally lead to poor well-being. So although there are numerous personal and professional stresses on us during this lockdown, for many, it is the chance to take a break from the daily grind.
This might be because we have been furloughed, or alternatively are working from home and avoiding regular commuting. It also means we can communicate with far flung corners of the world by technology, rather than those regular business trips we used to take.
Awareness of mental well-being and its importance has grown in recent years, even if it was hard-won by decades of long hours for many workers. The lockdown has shown flexible working is possible, with people able to be productive for their employers while spending time with loved ones. But once the lockdown ends, will we return to the way we were?
Before the current pandemic, corporations were working towards sustainability. To drop a few names, Amex GBT, Booking.com, SAP Concur, Microsoft and Mastercard are all on this journey with their business strategy aligning with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria.
A high ESG score is not only good for the environment, but is good for business too. Share prices often increase as sustainability commitments are made and employee satisfaction and engagement increases too. To take specific examples, in January Microsoft announced it would put $1 billion toward decarbonising by 2030 and removing historical carbon by 2050. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of consultancy firm PWC’s carbon footprint is from travel and it too recognizes it needs to address this.
All companies can begin to ‘Travel Smart’, though. In some cases that may even mean choosing not to travel at all, continuing to stay at home (or the office) and using video conference instead. Good for the bottom line and good for the environment.
But whether it is not travelling or less travelling, if the pandemic can act as a test case for new ways of working, then some good may have come of it. Employees are proving they can be trusted to work well from home and that in the future this will open up flexible working and will be added to more company policies.
We have the tech, we have smart people, we have the money when we need it. So why is finance not getting to the circular economy, the green projects and to improving our emissions reduction faster? We’ve now seen the benefits of cleaner ways.
In the European Parliament on Monday April 14 an appeal was proposed for a #GreenRecovery. The idea is that the bailouts and building the economy back up from recession should be a “Green Deal’, and conditions should be applied while finances are being shared out. We believe that we should take this opportunity to accelerate the work towards carbon neutrality by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement.
We set up flygreenalliance.org to support the mission to increase sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). A challenge is that even as greener fuel is adopted, a predicted doubling of aviation passenger traffic by 2036 to 7.8 billion passengers would swamp any improvement gained from SAF, so we needed to broaden our mission and encourage people to fly less. This doesn’t mean penalising flying, but it does mean balancing those increases in travel that will certainly happen with our global carbon footprints.
The result of this was FGAtravelsmart.com. We advocate for quality travel, which means paying to fly green and making a contribution to decarbonising the industry through meaningful offsets that support research into innovating the industry and which pay for SAF.
We have based this on our research and from listening to what companies want and are looking for in their aims to reduce their emissions and contribute to climate work globally. We are working on a best practice sustainable travel policy document, and you can register to receive a copy on our website. We welcome your comments and wish to open up some discussions so we can begin to rethink how we conduct work and travel for business, so we can all contribute to our green future.
We are #Strongertogether in everything. We have seen this from COVID-19, so let’s work for a #GreenRecovery.
Sarah Wilkin is founder and CEO of the Fly Green Alliance