Recession May Harm Green Business Travel, Survey Says

Although Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts continue to grow, the down economy may hurt individual initiatives, including "green" business travel programs, suggests an annual opinion poll by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and European expense management company KDS.

Conducted between December 2008 and January 2009 among 329 travel managers and business travelers worldwide, the survey found that 79 percent of companies rate cost-cutting as a high business travel priority this year, versus 17 percent for whom environmentally sustainable travel is a high priority. Overall, the survey asserted, sustainability is rated only as a mid-level priority for business travel, ranked as such by 48 percent of companies.

"At this stage, green travel choices remain scarce and are usually more expensive," KDS CEO Yves Weisselberger said in a statement. "For example, European companies can send their staff by high speed rail, which is low in emissions but often more expensive than a low-cost flight. However, in the current economy, paying a premium is hard to justify, so green business travel will lose out. Longer term, though, the picture is brighter—companies clearly want to do the right thing through CSR, so once the financial premium is erased, or the economy permits, we should expect to see green business travel become far more popular."

Although green business travel has not yet taken hold among a majority of companies—only 35 percent of U.S. respondents, versus 42 percent of European respondents, said they would consider carbon emissions when planning business travel—CSR in general has, according to the ACTE/KDS survey. It found that 61 percent of companies have a CSR charter, versus 59 percent last year, and that 27 percent of companies prefer to do business with suppliers that have a CSR charter.

The most common CSR efforts, according to the survey, are:

• Reducing energy waste within company buildings (76 percent)
• Contributing to the local community (55 percent)
• Cutting carbon emissions in production plants (34 percent)
• Using carbon offset arrangements (25 percent)

"The survey shows that, contrary to some predictions, Corporate Social Responsibility has not fallen from favor in these challenging times," ACTE Executive Director Susan Gurley said in a statement. "Instead, the figures show that it is steadily gaining ground and becoming part of the DNA for organizations around the world. However, it also puts to rest the myth that good CSR practices automatically include greener travel choices. Under present economic conditions, green travel choices may frequently conflict with the greater urge to cut costs."

To view ACTE's full report, download it from www.acte.org.