| Jessica Freedman

To Travel or not to travel: Business sustainability management post-Covid

Discover what you can do to reduce your company's environmental footprint in a post-pandemic world, helping you to make informed decisions about whether to travel or not to travel.

In 2020, the world as we know it was turned upside down. From one day to the next, businesses had to tell their employees to go home and work from there indefinitely. From that time the way we do business has changed forever. More and more, business trips are being replaced with virtual meetings or virtual conferences. But when is it a good idea to go virtual and when is travel essential?

Business sustainability management in a post-Covid world means that we pay more attention to how our company’s sustainability practices impact the greater world knowing that it’s no longer about one big decision, but a collection of smaller sustainable decisions that make a difference. This is something we learned from Covid when the world all of a sudden went silent and nearly emission-free.

Covid taught us that businesses should start making smarter decisions about travel, like preferring train travel over airline travel; grouping together business trips to farther destinations with multiple stops; preferring airlines that use biofuel; and choosing sustainable hotels when possible. 

When to say “No” to travel

If there’s anything we learned during the pandemic, it’s that video conferencing has its advantages, which means there are instances where you can say goodbye to long plane journeys, high accommodation costs or jet lag. Let’s take a look at the times when you might be able to replace a business trip with a virtual meeting. 

After Covid, more and more businesses have moved to a remote or hybrid business model, proving to us that we have the technology in place to easily and conveniently work across teams from anywhere in the world. Although there are still reasons to go for a business trip, in some cases the most sustainable and cost-effective decision is a zoom call. Especially when it comes to internal meetings.

Short internal meetings

When an internal meeting is going to be short, less than half a day, there might be a better way than putting in all the extra hours, time in the airport, travel, and added stress to meet in-person. Online meetings can be just as effective and actually more productive than traveling a long distance for a short meeting. 

It’s a short internal meeting which requires people to travel from various locations

Sometimes it’s nice for everyone to get together, especially when you’re working remotely from different places around the world, but instead of organizing several monthly internal meetings, which require people to travel from several different locations, you could replace them with a virtual meeting or a yearly and/or quarterly in-person meeting. Virtual meetings do have some benefits, like helping your team avoid travel fatigue, jet lag, they require less logistics, they are more sustainable, and they are overall cheaper.

When it’s a meeting with a long-established client

When you’ve been working with a client for a long time, an occasional in-person meeting might be a good idea, but generally this is the kind of business trip that can easily be replaced with a video conference. When trust has already been established with a client and meeting in person provides no added value, this is the ideal time to say “no” to travel.

When to say “Yes” to travel

The other thing we learned from the pandemic, is that working and meeting virtually has its limits. Simply not every meeting is suitable for this. We will look more in detail at when is the right time to say “yes” to travel. 

Cultural differences

When there are cultural differences, an in-person meeting is often the best way to go because there are some subtle nuances that can be missed otherwise. Hand and body language is a great way to better understand your clients and potential business partners, so especially with cross-continental business, it can sometimes be more beneficial to meet face-to-face.

There are plenty of countries where the personal touch is a must, it’s not just about doing business. In countries like Russia, the United Arab Emirates, India, China and Nigeria, meetings at an early stage via videoconferencing is simply not an option. In these countries before doing business you must create a personal connection, talking about how their family is doing, their kids and other personal matters. This also means eating out together a number of times or playing golf before actually forming a business agreement. 

When you’re working with the developing world

According to Statista, as of April 2022 there were five billion internet users in the world, meaning that around 63% of the world’s population has access to the internet, but what if you want to do business with that other 37% of the world who doesn’t have the possibility of internet access? This is when traveling is a must. Beyond cultural differences that are difficult to understand over the phone or over a video call, when you work with the developing world, oftentimes a virtual meeting simply isn’t possible.

Meeting with a new client

During the pandemic all business travel was put on hold, even for onboarding new clients or for first-time meetings with new clients. While it is still possible to do these meetings with technology, there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to seal the deal or build trust with future clients. This is a case where it is definitely a good idea to hop on a plane, train or automobile to make those meetings face-to-face.

When it’s a several day meeting or event with multiple attendees

Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and this is why when it comes time to organize a several day meeting or when many people are involved traveling from different areas, it’s a good idea to make these meetings in-person. Plus, there is nothing like the power of getting people together in one room to debate, brainstorm and get creative together, building a sense of team that just isn’t the same when done virtually. 

Business sustainability management:
5 Tips to managing business travel more sustainably

We’ve looked at how to decide whether to travel or not to travel, but what about making sustainable choices to better take care of our planet? Keep reading to find out how you can handle business sustainability management for travel in your company. 

1. Prefer more sustainable means of transportation

If you’ve decided that travel is a must then be sure to evaluate all your choices carefully, preferring sustainable means of transportation when possible like trains, public transport and car-sharing. If several staff members are traveling together, why not have them share a car instead of each of them renting a car for themselves? These small decisions will add up in the long run. 

In the case of GetGoing you can also reserve your train travel directly on the platform making it easy to prefer sustainable travel.

If your business travel destination is too far to take a train, you can have your travelers make a conscious decision to choose airlines that use biofuel like Azul Airlines, British Airways, Jet Blue, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Australia, and Virgin Atlantic. 

2. Choose sustainable hotels

More and more sustainable hotels are popping up, and an important part of business sustainability management is making sure that you choose sustainable hotels who care about the environment. You can look out for hotels that have different certifications like the Biosphere Hotel Certification, the Green Key logo, LEED certificates for sustainable architecture and other types of certification that give you reassurance that the hotels you are choosing are really committed to the planet.

3. Go mostly remote

One of the easiest ways for companies to be more sustainable is to go mostly remote. Allowing employees to work from home is not only great for work-life balance but also is great for the environment because it means less cars are on the road. Of course some in-person meetings (even if it requires travel) are great for office morale and for team building, but going mostly remote is the way forward.

4.Carbon offsetting 

There are still plenty of good reasons to travel for business. So business travel isn’t going away and with that comes the need to offset the negative impact excessive travel has on the environment. This can be done with carbon offsetting, a process through which you can compensate for carbon dioxide emissions arising from travel by participating in programs designed to make equivalent reductions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some examples of carbon offsetting are participating in land restoration or planting of trees. Read more about carbon offsetting.

5. Keep it safe but stay environmentally responsible

Keeping it safe sometimes isn’t compatible with sustainability. The pandemic has forced us to use one-use plastic, surgical masks and gloves that will continue to negatively affect the atmosphere and the oceans for time to come. While you must keep your workers safe and promote the use of masks, especially in public spaces, trains and planes, it’s important to educate your workers about how to reduce their carbon footprint.

Simple acts like only printing boarding passes and documentation only when strictly necessary, using public transportation instead of their own personal vehicles or taxis to get to the airport, avoiding the use of one-use plastic, and recycling are ways you can encourage employees to participate in protecting our planet. 

Business sustainability management starts with making smarter decisions about travel

We’ve looked at how to evaluate whether travel is totally necessary or not, and some tips you can use to make smarter decisions about business travel in your company. If anything we can hope that post-pandemic, humanity has woken up a bit, and is moving in a direction of making more sustainable decisions, and this article is designed to help your business move in this direction. 

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