by Matt Alderton | July 06, 2012
Green initiatives are becoming more and more important to managed travel programs, according to the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which this week released the results of a new sustainability study.

The GBTA Foundation surveyed travel managers in the United States, Europe and Australia — who were asked for their opinions on sustainability as it relates to their business travel programs — and concluded that companies are focusing on sustainability measures that can generate savings and influence traveler behavior.

The GBTA Foundation's report, "2012 Sustainable Travel Policies Benchmarking Study," also found that Europe is ahead of the United States when it comes to sustainability.

Key findings:

• Fifty-six percent of European and Australian travel managers, and 41 percent of U.S. travel managers, believe environmental responsibility is more important now than it was two years ago.

• Fifty-two percent of European and Australian travel managers, and 41 percent of U.S. travel managers, plan to incorporate more green measures.

• Fifty-nine percent of European and Australian travel managers, and 34 percent of U.S. travel managers, anticipate using environmental sourcing criteria.

• Fifty-six percent of European and Australian travel managers, and 41 percent of U.S. travel managers, participate in at least one travel-related sustainability initiative. Of those, 35 percent of European and Australian travel managers, and 17 percent of U.S. travel managers, have four or more travel-related sustainability initiatives.

"Companies worldwide are focusing their corporate social responsibility programs on their impact on our environment," says Bernard Harrop, head of sustainability at the GBTA Foundation. "Travel has an outsized impact on the environment, but from this study we've learned that travel managers lack direction and accurate data to evolve their travel programs in the best interest of the environment."

According to the GBTA Foundation, a major focus for companies is supplier relationships — searching for vendors with green services and solutions to curb waste, minimize carbon footprints and generate results. In Europe and Australia, it said, more than one-third of travel buyers plan to make supplier changes in the next two years in order to comply with new sustainability travel policies. Meanwhile, between 37 percent and 43 percent of travel managers say they anticipate changing at least one of their airline, hotel or ground transportation suppliers.

Employee education is another priority: When asked to provide helpful and actionable ideas to improve green efforts in travel programs, travel managers suggested educating travelers about what they can do to help reduce emissions, like carpooling and actively promoting preferred vendors with green initiatives.

"Travel managers around the world can learn from each other about what's working in current programs," Harrop says. "GBTA has been at the forefront of this issue, which has been of strategic importance for the business travel industry developing programs like Project ICARUS, the first global travel management sustainability body, representing the interests of the global travel and meetings industry."