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Making Sustainable Business Travel a Reality: A Look at EU Initiatives and GBTA’s Impact

EU leaders are in a race against time to push through new reforms aimed at greening the economy, ahead of the European Parliament elections scheduled for June 2024. The ambitious “European Green Deal” presented as one of the main priorities of the current Commission is set to become President Ursula von der Leyen’s most enduring legacy. The stream of measures adopted in Brussels will impact almost every industry in Europe, with repercussions around the globe. Travel has been one of the most widely affected sectors.

GBTA has been closely monitoring new rules in the making and engaged with policymakers the business travel sector and contribute to the design of efficient policies. Specifically, we closely followed the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), introducing new disclosure rules on climate risks; CountEmissionsEU, which would create a harmonised methodology to calculate greenhouse gas emissions of transport services; and the upcoming Multimodal Digital Mobility Services (MDMS) regulation, intended to make it
easier to ticket and book trips that connect air and rail services.

A new era of reporting and accountability

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which entered into force in early 2023, mandates all large companies and listed companies (except listed micro- enterprises) to disclose information on what they see as the risks and opportunities arising from social and environmental issues. This includes reporting their scope 3 emissions – including from business travel.

This information will be helpful for investors, consumers, and other stakeholders, who will be able to evaluate the sustainability performance of companies. A key piece to this puzzle is the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), released last July, which detail what companies need to look at in their reporting.

GBTA’s view:
GBTA has welcomed this push for more transparency and accountability on climate reporting, allowing businesses to direct their actions where it matters the most. Even if corporate travel managers will likely not be owning the reporting process, they will work closely with their sustainability teams to be tracking and collecting emissions from business travel. It’s also important to note that companies can still decide if certain type of emissions are material or not, and may decide not to report on their business travel emissions if their share of total emissions is very minimal.

Getting closer to a common standard to measure emissions.

The proposed CountEmissions EU regulation is closely related to sustainability reporting. It is a piece of legislation that introduces a common harmonised methodology (ISO  14083:2023 ) to calculate greenhouse gas emissions of transport services across different modes. While the regulation does not determine how the methodology must be used, it does mandate its use for any entity that calculates and discloses information on Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, including those that do so in compliance with the CSRD.

GBTA’s view:
GBTA has long advocated for a standard methodology to calculate emissions to allow accuracy and comparability across all modes of transport – including rail, road, and air. We believe this will increase transparency and help promote the uptake of low-carbon business travel. We applaud that the proposal includes all modes and that it promotes an internationally recognised standard for emissions calculation, facilitating global adoption of sustainable practices, to help business travellers make informed and sustainable choices in the future.

Encouraging multimodal travel alternatives.

The upcoming Multimodal Digital Mobility Services (MDMS) regulation would change the legal framework for multimodal travel information, booking and ticketing services. The objective is to make travel for European citizens simpler and greener and the transport system more competitive by simplifying the booking process onto one platform and to incorporate multiple travel options. In July 2023, the European Commission presented three policy options for consideration, none of which were considered ambitious enough. This means the EU must go back to the drawing board and review its approach, creating an uncertain future for this initiative.

GBTA’s View:
GBTA favours a proposal that would enable the relinking and reselling of all cross-border tickets and tickets of significant transport on MDMS platforms, based on Friendly, Reasonable and Non Discriminatory (FRAND) terms. This would be combined with an obligation on these platforms to rank offers in a neutral fashion and equally respect FRAND when they are of a significant size. With this approach, passengers’ needs would be put at the heart of the Regulation by ensuring that relevant rail and air tickets can be conveniently booked via MDMS.

GBTA is a founding partner of the “Friends of MDMS” coalition and has co-signed several joint statements with like-minded stakeholders. On Tuesday 10 October, GBTA and our partners will be organising an event in the European Parliament in Brussels: “The MDMS Regulation: Can it make travel easier and greener?”. This is to show our support for an ambitious MDMS Regulation and ask the Commission to deliver on the promise of smart, seamless, and multimodal passenger transport in Europe by giving travellers the freedom to easily choose how they move.

Looking ahead

GBTA will continue to represent the business travel sector in Brussels, defending a transition towards more sustainable travel options through EU policies that consider the views of all stakeholders. We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the European Union and with our members in the implementation of these policies.