Only 9% have a clear objective. The report, “The Journey to More Sustainable Corporate Travel and Meetings Management Programs”, surveyed travel managers and meeting planners in the U.S., Canada and Europe about their sustainability programs and activities. And here comes the cold shower: 55% of respondents say their organization has a company-wide carbon emissions reduction target, but only 23% have a target for business travel specifically, and only 9% have a target for company-hosted meetings and events.
Europe is a bit better than North America: 20% of Europe-based respondents have an emissions target for company meetings and events, which compares to only 6% in North America.
This lack of quantitative targets is surprising… and not. It surprises, since awareness about the importance of the issue is high: 65% of respondents say sustainability is at least a moderate priority for their company’s meetings management program and 29% cite it as a top priority. However, one factor helps explain this lack of clear targets: by nature, each event is different, so defining clear reduction objectives is harder than for something predictable like business travel (or factories emissions…).
The solution, as we have observed many times, comes from above: according to the report, the C-Suite is engaged on sustainability, and more than half of respondents say senior executives (57%) drive sustainability at their company, just behind sustainability/corporate social responsibility departments (64%).
Virtual seen as a solution? For anyone doubting the threat sustainability poses to our industry, check this out: three in five respondents (59%) expect sustainability considerations to drive their company to hold more virtual meetings and 52% say it will drive more hybrid meetings in the future. It is definitely time to take the issue seriously and show ourselves as a responsible industry, focused on reducing our environmental impact.
What are the solutions companies embrace to reduce the impact of their meetings? Most cited options are providing shuttles (40%), communicating with attendees about public transit (34%), serving locally sourced food (32%), using recyclable packaging (31%), and replacing plastic cutlery with real flatware (30%).
Also, of the respondents who say their company sends out hotel RFPs, 54% include sustainability-related questions., and of those who issue RFPs for venues, 44% include sustainability-related questions.
“Corporate travel managers and meetings professionals have a tremendous opportunity to be drivers of change and evolution as more companies prioritize sustainability. They can provide the expertise and guidance to help bring more environmental sustainability to their employee travel and meetings,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA.