It’s time for businesses to think green when booking travel

Across the UK, businesses are trying to be better corporate citizens for their people, the communities they serve, and the environment. Sustainability is high on the agenda. Many businesses are leading the way – while others are recognising pressure from employees, consumers, customers, partners and industry peers to go green.

In fact, consumer research from Kantar found that 77% of people in the UK have switched, avoided or boycotted brands because of their environmental policies. Meanwhile, the job search platform Totaljobs found that 28% of people check businesses’ sustainability practices when applying for new roles. To address this, more than 40% of UK business owners see sustainability as a high priority.

A recent shift towards sustainability from some businesses means they are ahead of the curve. Starting from 2025, the Government has announced its intention to make climate impact reporting for large companies mandatory. This move will ensure accountability, and will no doubt soon extend further down the chain to impact micro, small and medium-sized enterprises – many of whom are already beginning their own sustainability journeys.

When the mandatory climate impact reporting was announced in 2020, UK businesses were in a different place. On the back of the pandemic, the world went virtual. New ways of working – and socialising – were created. International corporate travel and high-flying days became a thing of the past. Social distance was placed between colleagues, partners, and customers. The pandemic brought about its own challenges. But one positive that came from it was that global emissions were down 5% in 2020, in part due to businesses staying put.

The pandemic is somewhat of a hazy memory today and the world has largely returned to normal. Businesses are now encouraging people back into the office, in-person social interaction has become a priority, and a sense of post-pandemic optimism gave business owners a new burst of energy about going green. But it’s not all been rosy.

Macroeconomic events over recent years have seen costs go up, consumers’ wallets shrink, and increased uncertainty in the workforce. As a result, according to the Scaleup Institute as many as six in 10 scaleup CEOs now say it is harder to grow a business in the UK than in the past – up from four in 10 in 2021.

Against this backdrop, businesses are increasingly looking at how they can build meaningful relationships with key stakeholders – such as customers, suppliers, and partners – to drive growth, and as a result, business travel has firmly bounced back. In fact, according to a survey by Deloitte, corporate travel budgets in the second half of this year will reach 95% of the budgets seen in 2019 across Europe and the US. By comparison, in the second half of 2020, corporate travel budgets had fallen to just 3% of 2019 figures.

But what does this mean for UK businesses and their sustainability agendas? It certainly creates a unique and somewhat interesting dynamic whereby businesses want to be more sustainable and lower their emissions – especially as many look to ambitious net-zero goals – while the pursuit of growth is firmly the priority.

Scope 3 emissions, which, amongst other things, include corporate travel, often contribute upwards of 90% of a company’s carbon footprint. It will require the most significant effort to reduce and one that requires collaboration to tackle head-on. Research published by travel and expense management company SAP Concur suggests 37% of travel managers expect their company’s travel policies to change in the next 12 months to better comply with their internal and external sustainability goals. And 28% say they face growing pressure to increase reporting on their company’s travel emissions.

In short, reducing Scope 3 emissions will depend on the partners a business works with and the actions they take. This is why venturing towards a greener future needs more collective action – the UK will only scratch the surface of its emissions by addressing Scope 1 and 2. 

Selecting partners that align with a business’s sustainability priority is critical. At Village Hotel Club, for instance, we have recently launched our evolved ESG & Sustainability strategy, Village Green, and are relentlessly focused on delivering against this. Today, we source all of our energy from 100% renewable sources, we use technology to monitor and manage our utilities, and are in the process of installing high-speed EV chargers across our estate. By doing this, we will provide a greener place for our customers to stay, our employees to work, and for businesses – whether in our co-working and events spaces or a meeting place to connect with contacts – to do business. 

There isn’t a quick fix to reducing Scope 3 emissions. But, as corporate travel bounces back to the levels we saw pre-pandemic, there’s now an opportunity to look at more sustainable options to avoid the pursuit of growth coming at the cost of the planet