Table of Content


Where are you in your sustainability journey?

Step 1: Analysis
Step 2: Definition
Step 3: Prioritization
Step 4: Goal Setting
Step 5: Implementation

Module 3: Getting Started

Module 3: Getting Started

Learning Objectives

  • This module clarifies how a company's current ESG operations and carbon footprint affect what sustainability means for that company.
  • The module then provides a way to define the scope and constraints of a sustainable travel program for that company together with allies.
  • Readers will discover potential actions that align with the success factors and enable the organization to achieve the best balance between sustainability, profitability, well-being, and mobility.
  • It further teaches readers how to set sustainability targets and how to use data to track the progress on the journey to sustainable travel management.


Establishing sustainable travel management can be seen as a five-step process.


Step 1 – Analysis of goals, stakeholders, infrastructure, and carbon footprint

Input: Gather the facts and identify a network of stakeholders to help make the sustainability journey a success.
Outcome: Establish a baseline for the business case and subsequent actions.

Part of the internal analysis is to identify the organization’s Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) Goals or to gauge the organizational readiness to set such goals if they’re not already in place. Addressing key questions will allow you to understand the context of existing infrastructure, corporate objectives, and key stakeholders from a sustainable travel management perspective (see checklist below).

Checklist of example questions for internal analysis:
  • Is there a sustainability program in place? What are the key principles, which areas or dimensions are of particular importance, who coordinates the activities, and what targets have been set?
  • Does the organization publish a sustainability or ESG report?
  • Is the organization a member of national or global associations in the area of sustainability (e.g., The UN Global Compact, Business for Social Responsibility, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, US Climate Action Partnership, Chicago Climate Exchange, Global Reporting Initiative, Carbon Disclosure Project, World Resources Institute, Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition, Sustainable Aviation, Buyers Alliance, First Movers Coalition)?
  • Are carbon emissions of the core business activities and Scope 3 emissions measured? How are these tracked, which methodology is used, and is the company using a third-party verifier (e.g., a big 4 accounting firm)? If so, what is the share of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions in the overall emission footprint for the company?
  • How important is sustainability for the company brand and reputation? What relevant client expectations have been identified by marketing and sales? What relevant employee expectations has the organization identified?
  • Which sustainability or ESG-related statements have been made by top management or are made publicly available by the company?
  • What are the internal policies, tools, and ways of working in relation to virtual meetings and collaboration?
If available, what are the annual carbon emissions caused by business travel and other corporate mobility activities?

This analysis also includes an assessment of the usage, features, ownership, and promotion of the relevant technical and operational infrastructure, including the:
  • corporate booking tools
  • environmental reporting tools
  • virtual meeting and collaboration tools
In addition, the analysis scopes the involvement and expectations of relevant internal and external stakeholders to support and contribute to the sustainability journey, including:
  • Corporate Leadership
  • Sustainability
  • Marketing
  • Real Estate and Workplace Services
  • Customer facing teams and Sales
  • Finance
  • Sourcing / Procurement
  • HR
  • clients
  • suppliers
As explained in Module 4, a core part of the analysis is an assessment of the organization’s carbon footprint from business travel, i.e., the aggregate amount of CO2e emissions caused by business trips from transport and accommodation, and how this relates to the organization’s overall annual emissions. This absolute number is the baseline for fact-based dialogue, which allows a company to prioritize the actions and to measure the progress.

Equipped with this initial analysis, the travel manager can define what sustainable travel management should mean for the organization and qualify and quantify the subsequent options for action.


Step 2 – Definition of sustainable travel management

Input: Define the scope of the program and determine the critical success factors to mobilize partners and the top management.
Outcome: Establish a shared understanding of context and constraints to ensure that the team moves in the same direction and focuses on the parameters that really matter to achieve success.

Based on the analysis in Step 1, one needs to define the scope of the sustainable travel management initiative:
  • Can we approach this enterprise-wide or do we need to limit ourselves to certain countries, regions, or business units?
  • Do we have the resources to focus on all dimensions of ESG or do we focus on one element first, such as the environment, due to the urgency of the climate crisis?
Setting the scope will allow your organization to determine critical success factors for your sustainable travel management program, as well as identify barriers to achieving specific targets. Examples for success factors include:
  • Timeframe - “We need to be able to demonstrate tangible results within x months to keep the momentum.”
  • Costs - “We need to track how sustainable travel decisions impact cost so we can prove that those sustainable choices don’t lead to increased expenses beyond the agreed threshold.”
  • Accountability and enablement – “We need to identify key stakeholders to impact this change and who are impacted by this change management.”
  • Data capture and reporting – “We need to agree on which methodology and data sources we will be using to track and report on CO2 emissions for business travel.”
A key success factor is clear and consistent communication on the purpose of the initiative, its goals, and how it fits into the bigger picture. Messages and communication channels need to be tailored to the target audience.

Furthermore, strategic allies to support the initiative are likely to come from various functions and business units across the end-to-end travel process. These collaborators have been identified in the analysis phase (see the list of stakeholders in Step 1) and now need to be activated to support the sustainability initiative and to build a sustainable travel program.

Having established a good understanding around the “Why?” “What?” “Who?” and “When?” questions to initiate a sustainable travel management program, the travel manager is now ready to obtain top management endorsement. Every major project requires a project sponsor who can open doors, provide resources, and push the topic with top management from a strategic perspective. Once the project sponsor is on board, the first small team can be formed and actual options for action can be evaluated.


Step 3 – Prioritization of initiatives

Input: Derive potential actions from the carbon footprint analysis and identified success factors.
Outcome: Develop priority initiatives to incorporate sustainability into travel management.

Following the baseline analysis (Step 1) and definitions (Step 2), the next task is to establish actions that align with the success factors and allow the organization to achieve the best balance of sustainability, cost-effectiveness, well-being, and mobility.

The tools and reference material in this toolkit provide some suggested components for prioritization, however those suggestions are not exhaustive. Creativity and pragmatism are needed to tailor the initiatives to fit the organization’s baseline, while sharing best practices and learnings from other companies that have already implemented sustainable travel management programs. They might include demand management, influencing traveler behavior to reduce emissions, sustainable travel procurement, offsetting policies, etc.

Travel managers might consolidate a list of possible actions through conversations with internal and external stakeholders. They can then work with their project sponsor to determine which actions are feasible and will have the most impact on their triple bottom line.


Step 4 – Setting goals

Input: Current baseline of company’s carbon footprint and sustainability performance and understanding of company-wide sustainability goals or, if not set, recommended science-based targets.
Outcome: Measurable, realistic, and time-bound targets for the priority initiatives.

The goals for the selected ideas and initiatives should be specific, measurable, realistic, and time bound. Examples include:
  •  “We will reduce carbon emission impact caused by business travel compared to 2019 by 50% by 2030.”
  • “We will reduce the share of internal meetings as a purpose of trip from 30% to 15% of all trips taken within 12 months.”
  • “We will increase the share of rail usage on selected short-haul routes to 90% within 12 months.”
  • “Contracted travel vendors representing 80% of our spend will have been audited over the next three years to comply with our social, ethical, and environmental program criteria.”
  • “As of January, we will offset all carbon emissions caused by our business travel and meetings by financing energy efficiency projects that meet the Gold Standard.”
The targets can be translated into a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that allows tracking the success and progress of the program. By validating the baseline for each indicator prior to the implementation, it will be easier to communicate tangible results at a later stage (see Module 7 for details on Sustainability Reporting).

Transparency and reliable information are key here. Sustainable travel management requires definition of the underlying data sources and where required, an initiative to achieve the transparency required.


Step 5 – Implementation beyond organizational boundaries and integration into “traditional” travel management

Input: Prioritized initiatives, specified targets, mapped stakeholders.
Outcome: Continued momentum and partnership to progress towards a shared purpose.

As already mentioned, clear and consistent communication on the purpose of the initiative, its goals, and how it fits into the bigger picture is key to ushering in the change. Messages and communication channels need to be tailored to the target audience.

An integrated, holistic approach is needed that balances the environmental dimension with cost control and the need to be close to clients, as well as an understanding of security and work-life balance issues related to travel.

The allies identified in Steps 1 and 2 were already involved in the preparation phases and will now need to play the role of change agents – facilitating the implementation across functions, units, and hierarchy levels. A partnership with external suppliers can result in a win-win situation: the company achieves its goals more easily and the suppliers prove added value as strategic partners in the supply chain and potentially receive more market share or business as a result.

A new level of sophistication has been reached once all constituents in the process live the organization’s values and goals. Sustainability needs to be integrated into day-to-day activities and organizational planning, from budgeting (“How many trips do we really need to take in my department this year and why?”) to planning the trip (“Can we postpone the meeting by two days so that I can combine it with a client visit already arranged?”) to management reporting (“By how much have we reduced our carbon emissions in relation to our revenue and in absolute terms in the last quarter?”).


Key Takeaways

  • The transition to sustainable travel is not an easy task. Dividing the work into progressive steps can help to achieve the goal of sustainable business travel.
  • The first step is to identify the organization's environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives, using the right technical tools and involving relevant internal and external stakeholders.
  • The next step is to define the scope of the sustainable travel management initiative, which then helps to bring in the necessary sponsors to fund the change.
  • Following the above comes task of establishing actions that enable the organization to achieve the best balance between sustainability, cost effectiveness, well-being and mobility.
  • Defining the appropriate objectives to achieve this balance is the next step.
  • The final step is implementation, which must be accompanied by the right communication strategies.

Table of Content


Where are you in your sustainability journey?

Step 1: Analysis
Step 2: Definition
Step 3: Prioritization
Step 4: Goal Setting
Step 5: Implementation