Could employee travel be damaging businesses?

Article posted

25th Aug 2023

Read time

4-8 min read


Mollie Pinnington

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Various business operations necessitate employee travel, which significantly contributes to a company's carbon footprint. In the UK, a substantial number of employees prioritise convenience over environmental concerns when arranging their travel, inadvertently exacerbating the environmental impact. This trend highlights the need for businesses to reassess their travel policies and actively promote sustainable travel options among their staff. By doing so, companies can contribute to environmental conservation while also potentially enhancing their corporate image and fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.

Indeed, recent research has shed light on employee attitudes towards sustainable travel. The study found that only one in six employees, on average, considers sustainability a key priority when making travel plans. This figure underscores the necessity for companies to not only provide sustainable travel options but also educate their workforce about the environmental implications of their travel choices. By doing so, businesses can influence employee behaviour and help shift their priorities towards more eco-friendly travel alternatives.

In a promising shift, 26% of employees expressed their commitment towards reducing their carbon footprint by voluntarily cutting down on travel. This reveals a growing environmental consciousness among the workforce and indicates a potential willingness to embrace sustainable travel options. If nurtured properly, this mindset could pave the way to substantial reductions in corporate carbon footprints and a significant contribution to global sustainability efforts.

However, employees believe that their employers should be more proactive in addressing this issue. A notable 71% of employees stated that their employers should take steps to enable sustainable travel. This sentiment indicates a clear expectation for businesses to take a leadership role in promoting sustainability. Employees feel that companies have both the responsibility and the resources to make sustainable travel a viable and accessible option. This call for action represents a challenge to companies, pushing them to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, not only in their operations but also in their care for their employees' environmental impact.

The study further revealed that a significant 76% of employees indicated a readiness to make more sustainable travel choices, provided there were programs available to guide them. This demonstrates a clear demand for businesses to introduce sustainability programs that make it easier for employees to make eco-conscious travel decisions. The willingness shown by employees to adopt these sustainable habits further emphasises the need for companies to proactively address this issue. By implementing comprehensive sustainability programs, companies can not only foster eco-friendly practices among their workforce but also positively impact their overall carbon footprint, thus playing their part in global sustainability efforts.

Interestingly, the study revealed that 38% of businesses reported increasing their investment in sustainable business practices, a promising move towards more eco-conscious operations. However, while 71% of businesses claimed to have formal sustainability guidelines in place, only a subset of these companies, roughly 37%, actively enforce these policies. This disparity suggests a crucial gap between policy formation and execution. It is not enough for businesses to simply establish eco-friendly guidelines; they must also ensure that these policies are actively implemented and followed. This further emphasizes the necessity for businesses to actively engage in solutions that foster sustainable travel among their employees and reduce the environmental impact of their operations.

In an encouraging development, 43% of businesses that require travel as part of their operations are considering implementing initiatives to promote sustainable commuting. These initiatives include schemes such as "Cycle to Work" and remote working options, along with efforts to encourage more sustainable modes of travel. Such endeavours not only align with the growing environmental consciousness among employees, but they also actively answer the call for companies to take a leadership role in advancing sustainability. This proactive engagement in sustainable practices can significantly contribute to reducing a company's carbon footprint, furthering global sustainability efforts, and enhancing the company's image as an environmentally responsible organization.

Addressing Scope 3 emissions represents a significant opportunity for businesses to reduce their environmental impact. Scope 3 emissions, those generated indirectly by an organization through its value chain activities, notably include those produced from employee commuting and business travel. By implementing better planning and management strategies, companies can significantly curb these emissions. Strategies can include promoting work-from-home arrangements, encouraging use of public transit, cycling, or carpooling, and scheduling video conferencing to replace non-essential business travel. Furthermore, businesses can actively invest in carbon offset programs to compensate for unavoidable travel. By incorporating these measures into their operational planning, businesses can contribute substantially to reducing global carbon emissions, demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable business practices.

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