The Business of Travel


The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association

Bernard Harrop
Bernard Harrop
Bernard Harrop's Blog

Deadline Coming Fast for Nominations for Project ICARUS 2016 Sustainability Outstanding Achievement Awards

In early January, GBTA announced the opening of the call for nominations for the fourth annual Outstanding Achievement Awards for Sustainability in business travel and meetings across North America.

Through these awards, the GBTA Foundation looks to recognize travel buyers, suppliers, intermediaries, individuals and groups who can demonstrate outstanding leadership, innovation and commitment to delivering best in class sustainability programs, products and services across North America. Awards are split into the following categories:

  • Travel Supplier – including air, rail, hotel, ground providers etc.
  • Travel Intermediary – including technology partners, TMCs, Card providers, GDSs etc.
  • Travel Buyer – business travel and meetings buyers
  • Travel Team – meetings and events teams

The deadline for nominations is closing fast. The final date to submit an application is March 14, 2016 – just a few weeks away. Recipients will be announced and presented with a specially commissioned bronze Project ICARUS award at The Masters Honors Summit & Gala to be held April 10 – 11, 2016 at Trump National Doral® in Miami, FL. For more information, and details of how to be considered for one of these prestigious awards please visit the Project ICARUS website or contact me at

Guest Post: My Sustainability Story

In my previous sustainability series posts on the blog here, I have talked about what sustainability means, why taking a sustainable approach to business travel works and how to build a sustainable travel program, among other topics. Today, I want to turn the blog over to the head of GBTA’s Sustainability Committee to share the first in a series of real life examples of integrating sustainability into travel programs.

My Sustainability Story
By Joanne McNellis Coelho

I am Joanne McNellis Coelho, Senior Manager, Global Travel for Wyndham Worldwide, and I would like to tell ‘My Sustainability Story.'

Wyndham Worldwide is one of the world’s largest hospitality companies in the world, with over 100,000 locations in nearly 100 countries. My role as travel manager is to manage a multi-national travel program for our associates around the world.

Sustainability is not new for Wyndham Worldwide. As one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, we have always focused on implementing sustainability best practices at our hotels, vacation rental properties and timeshare properties, by engaging our supply chain, staff and customers. Early on, Wyndham had committed to reducing its operational carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020, and recently announced that we had already reached that goal - six years ahead of schedule!

Given the nature of our business, the carbon footprint from our internal business travel program is fairly low in comparison to other companies – less than 5 percent of the total. While reducing our carbon footprint in this area isn’t high on our radar, our business travel’s contribution is still very important. I believe that travel managers should align their goals with the overall goals of the company beyond the typical savings and cost avoidance initiatives.

But where do we start? Back in 2010, our Sustainability team began calculating our business travel emissions. At that time, I hadn’t heard of carbon emissions or even knew where they came from. My colleague in the Sustainability group was nice enough to give me a crash course in emissions, and from that day forward we brainstormed how we could work together to reduce our business travel footprint. I then began conversations with our preferred partners to find out what their companies were doing to learn from their success.

The most important advice I received was to start slowly, engage supply partners and get invloved!

This is great advice because it works!


It doesn’t mean go slow – it means ensure you plan carefully, engage people and communicate effectively.

Once I had support from my team, we engaged key supply partners. Our preferred suppliers are the source of the carbon emissions data and it is them who need to support us by finding ways to help reduce the environmental impact.

Our key suppliers were very supportive and willing to help. In fact, most had great programs already in place, so I decided to go after the easiest carbon reduction opportunities first. The ‘low hanging fruit’ as they say! It was my responsibility to get involved, so I immediately started learning as much as I could about the topic and used industry contacts as resources.  

A Car Rental Carbon Offset Program Was Born!   GuestPost_Joanne2

While we had been collecting emissions data since 2010, it wasn’t enough. We implemented the ‘Travel Smarter’ principles in order to reduce carbon emissions at the source. This involved recommending smaller vehicle rentals and the use of hybrid vehicles, resulting in some cost savings. But we wanted more. Our car rental partner offered a program where we could offset 100% of our business car rental emissions, so needless to say we took them up on it!

The final part of the puzzle was to engage company employees.

We started by creating an awareness campaign using our booking tool and quarterly newsletter to sprinkle in elements of sustainability into the travel program. This was no different than any other company program, except we needed to ensure that it was interesting, included compelling information encouraging employees to participate and offered an element of fun!

How have we done and what lessons did we learn? 

I would say we are off to a very good start. The biggest lesson I have learned is that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to incorporating sustainability practices into a corporate travel program. My peers that have had success in this space have all taken different paths and have experienced success within their respective organizations. GuestPost_Joanne3

Delivering a carbon reduction and financial return on investment is a great place to start for any business!!

In July 2015 it was announced that Wyndham Worldwide is one of the launch partners of United Airlines’ Carbon offset program, Carbon Choice. We are excited to be a part of this innovative program and look forward to seeing the results.

The best part of the story is that it has just begun!

Mandating Sustainability: New White Paper Details Impact Recent EU Accounting Directive to Have on Travel Buyers

In 2014, the European Council adopted Directive 2014/95/EU establishing mandatory environmental, social and governance reporting requirements for companies of significant public relevance with more than 500 employees. The EU member states are currently transposing the Directive into national law and mandatory reporting will be enforced beginning in 2017. This new Directive makes reporting of non-financial data mandatory for over 6,000 EU companies.


The GBTA Foundation’s Project ICARUS partnered with atmosfair to create a white paper detailing its implications for business travel carbon emissions reporting. The white paper, EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive: Implications for Business Travel Reporting, analyses current reporting practices and gives an indication of how prepared the business travel industry is for this new regulation. It also offers solutions on how travel buyers can prepare for the new reporting requirements.

With nearly 6,000 companies impacted, Project ICARUS wanted to create a resource to help travel buyers navigate the implications this new directive presents. The directive should not be seen as a burden on companies, however, but rather an opportunity to increase European companies’ long-term competitiveness and Europe’s long-term sustainable growth practices.


From the white paper you can get a clear indication of whether or not this directive applies to your company and what information needs to be reported. It also highlights the opportunity presented as this directive is a strong signal form the EU to accelerate the pace to achieve Europe 2020 strategy towards inclusive, smart and sustainable growth. The aim is to make Europe a global leader in establishing a new economic model that combines long-term profitability with social justice and the protection of our environment.

Looking beyond compliance, many companies are seeing the potential relevance and importance of reporting on the “six capitals,” namely financial capital, manufacturing capital, human capital, social and relationship capital, intellectual capital and natural capital.

For travel buyers, case studies in France and the UK where mandatory CSR reporting already exists show that changes in business practices will result from this reporting because what gets measured, gets managed. Some examples of sustainability-driven changes to travel practices include the introduction of green travel policies and embracing electric vehicles and car sharing. Travel suppliers and TMCs have a great opportunity to provide green products and services that support travel buyers in their efforts to reduce their company’s carbon footrprint from travel while maintaining the quality of business relationships and the safety of their travellers.

Download the report and find more resources from Project ICARUS here.  

Delivering Sustainability Results with Supplier Partners

Sustainability in Action… So far in my sustainability series posts we have talked about the principles, opportunities and benefits from creating a ‘Responsible Travel Program’. Let’s now look at a real-life example of how working with your suppliers can deliver a great program, and a significant return on investment.


Autodesk is a global leaders in 3D design software. Headquartered in San Rafael, California, they employee over 7,800 staff, which includes over 3,500 travellers.

‘A company that has sustainability in their DNA’

Their first sustainability report was published in 2008. Since that time they have put in place a strategic plan including corporate carbon reduction targets, established wide ranging ‘Green Procurement’ best practices, employee engagement initiatives and much more. They have consistently disclosed details about their performance, in order to provide information to investors, analysts, customers, employees, etc. There is also a desire to share their approach, and encourage other companies to borrow best practices and ideas in the knowledge that Autodesk faces many of the same challenges they do.  

The Plan for Business Travel?

In 2012, as part of an ongoing effort to reduce their environmental impact, Autodesk challenged its Preferred Travel Suppliers to help “green” a traditional travel program and help contribute to an overall company target of 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2018. A company preferred car vendor accepted the challenge. The program had four components to Autodesk sustainability success:

  • Increase usage of alternative fuel vehicles to 17 percent
  • Increase utilization of vehicles with a 28+ MPG average to 90 percent
  • Contribute to a total company reduction in CO2 emissions by 35 percent
  • Full utilization of On Demand EVs at Autodesk Corporate HQ locations in California.


Implementation of the program, developed by their U.S. Travel Manager, included:

  • Engaging and working closely together with their primary car rental vendor
  • The car rental company brought in their sustainability team
  • Metrics were reviewed to identify where potential reductions could be made
  • Key cities were challenged to pilot a Hybrid car program
  • Employee engagement and education program was devised and implemented
  • Annual CO2 reduction reports were developed to track progress
“Implementation of the program at Autodesk was simple and painless. Autodesk has a culture that embraces sustainability – it’s in our DNA. The key is to engage our supplies to ensure cars are available and then to socialize the results with our employees.” -Mark Papale.

Employee Engagement and Incentives:

In an effort to foster strong engagement in the travel program, the company offered incentives to employees to reduce their own environmental footprint:

  • Discounts on electric vehicles commuting (to purchase an EV vehicle as well as 12 charging stations that were installed at 111 McInnis)
  • Discounts on hybrid vehicles
  • Biking and public transit incentives


As at March 2015, all four initiatives are on track to smash the 2018 targets.

‘On track to lower CO2 and travel costs!’
  1. Increase usage of alternative fuel vehicles to 25 percent
  • Over 800 hybrid vehicles were added to the fleet
  • All monthly rental transactions for vehicle car classes driven, upgrades taken by employees and green vehicles rented, as well as average MPG by car make/model are audited
  • Total cost of for fuel charged to renters decreased by 39 percent
  • This can be directly attributed to hybrid rentals as less fuel is needed for the average trip
  1. Increase utilization of vehicles with a 28+ MPG average to 83 percent
  • Limits were put on the booking tool - travellers allowed to rent hybrids first and then rent mandatory mid-size or fuel efficient vehicles
  • Utilization increased in vehicles with Avg. 28+ MPG, from 35 percent to 83 percent between year-end 2012 and the end of Q1 2015
  1. Lower total CO2 emissions by 35 percent
  • Autodesk has reduced its total emissions by 27 percent over its 2008 baseline.

The goal is to have 100% adoption by Autodesk employees by 2018.

These efforts to reduce Autodesk’s business travel incentives are part of a suite of other initiatives to reduce Autodesk’s overall environmental footprint. These include a commitment to power Autodesk’s business with 100% renewable energy and transportation incentive programs for employees to reduce their own footprint. To find out more, see Autodesk’s Annual Sustainability Report

An inspiration to us all!!

GBTA members can read the full case study on Autodesk on the GBTA Hub.

Stay tuned for my next post in about two weeks. If you can’t wait until then and want to learn more now, visit our Project ICARUS website.

I welcome your views and comments. Please feel free to comment below or email me at

5 Steps to a Sustainable Travel Program

Sustainability in Action... In this third blog post in my new sustainability series, I continue explain why following a responsible approach to a sustainable travel and meetings program is good for business. Having a sustainable travel program for business travel and meetings is no longer a nice to do’.

‘No longer a ‘nice to do!’

A requirement for greater transparency from stakeholders, staff and customers, linked to a growth in UK and EU legislation, is making it ‘a must do’!

A recent survey by GBTA identified that over 57 percent of European companies have sustainability initiatives in their company’s travel policy, and 52 percent think sustainability is now more important than two years ago. The most common sustainability initiative is the management of carbon emissions (CO2).

When creating a CO2 reduction program start with the end in mind and follow a process that delivers measurable and achievable results. Showing a return on investment alongside gaining support and engagement of both the company leadership and frequent travellers is key to target achievement.


Showing a return on investment is key!

The five steps to success are:

  1. Align the travel program with your company’s key corporate sustainability objectives. Seek out environmental experts in your company. You will be surprised what is available!
  2. Collect CO2 data from key suppliers as well as TMCs, online self-booking tool providers and credit card companies. Just ask!
  3. Define a high-level set of goals and objectives in line with your company’s current environment policy. Then calculate the potential reduction in total CO2g. 5 percent reduction in year 1, rising to 15 percent by year 5. Don’t be shy – be aspirational!
  4. Create a program which identifies ways to minimise business travel & meetings emissions. Options include:
    • Manage: manage the demand for travel.
    • Reduce: choose lower carbon options to reduce the number of emissions per trip.
    • Compensate: invest in carbon offsets to compensate for the emissions produced.
  5. Implement the program. Don’t skimp on resources and be prepared to invest over a sustained period. Integrate and align new travel procedures to ensure business-as-usual. Gain support from ‘Travel Champions’!


The success of any program will come by gaining management endorsement, being patient, delivering clear motivational communications, recognising success and maximising employee engagement.

Stay tuned for my next post in two weeks. If you can’t wait until then and want to learn more now, visit our Project ICARUS website.

I welcome your views and comments. Please feel free to comment below or email me at  

Why Taking a Sustainable Approach to Business Travel & Meetings Works!

Sustainability in Action... In this second blog post of my new sustainability series, I explain why following a responsible approach to a sustainable travel and meetings program is good for business. If you missed my first post on what sustainability is and why does it matter, read it here.

The word ‘sustainability’ is used a great deal in business today. It is important to know how it applies to the buying of business travel and meetings, what the benefits are and the reasons why you should get involved.

Let me explain!

Sustainability is a way of doing business that respects and balances the needs of the people we relate with, the environment in which we operate and the cost of doing business. In other words, balancing the 3Ps - PEOPLE, PLANET and PROFIT.

Ignoring just one of these components will ultimately damage all three, which is why we say your business needs to be in balance to maximize performance. Nor is this a short term ‘project’ or ‘solution’; success only comes from a change in behavior and a continuous program. SustainabilityPost2

‘Maintaining a healthy balance and ‘living within our means’

Why a Company Should Take Action?

There are a number of very good reasons why buyers of business travel and meetings should take action!

  • Countries are starting to introduce laws that force companies to address climate change.
  • This is a real profit and loss issue
  • Reputational risk/damage from ignoring some of these issues could be immense.
  • Social, environment and economic issues are driving people’s behaviors.
  • Globally, we all need to do more with less.

Why I Should Do This?

Including sustainable thinking into your travel program, or sales of products and services, has been proven to deliver many benefits to you and your company.

Based on ICARUS case studies, it is very clear to us that if you take a sustainable approach to managing your business travel program, your organization will make significant cost savings and ALSO benefit from meeting corporate sustainability goals.

In addition, it allows you to address many corporate risk management issues, comply with the increasing number of government regulations and retain productive staff

Key Business Travel & Meetings Best Practices

A number of standard business practices are brought together to deliver a sustainable performance:

  • ‘SMART’ Choices - Managing demand and use of lower carbon options.
  • Internal Programs – E.g. community outreach, social investments, collaborations with social organizations and NGOs/volunteers.
  • Employee Engagement - Duty of care - including travel security, safety and traveler well-being.
  • “Greening” Your Business Travel pPogram – E.g. Measuring/reducing the carbon footprint, setting reduction targets, and purchasing carbon offsets for business travel-related activities.
  • Environmental Supply Chain Sourcing - Criteria for including sustainability in selecting suppliers.
  • Creating Goals, Measurement and Reporting - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.
  • Communication - Communicate and engage with stakeholders - internally and externally.

Sample Case Study: Quote from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) - One of the world’s leading professional services organizations

“The travel team at PwC UK have worked hard to support the firm’s global sustainability initiatives. We are particularly proud of the communication program, the support and effort from our Travel Champions and the commitment of our travellers. We aim to develop further new initiatives as we continue to improve our drive to greater sustainability in business travel and meetings” said Mark Avery, Global Business Services & Travel Leader.
  • 60 percent reduction in carbon emissions versus baseline for non-client travel
  • 7 million Euros in costs avoided in a 3 year period
  • 60 business units and 4,000 attendees continually involved in ‘Wellness Day’ regional programs

Resource Tip: Useful reading - *GREEN TO GOLD  -  Esty & Winston

How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage

Stay tuned for my next post in two weeks. If you can’t wait until then and want to learn more now, visit our Project ICARUS website.

I welcome your views and comments. Please feel free to comment below or email me at

What IS Sustainability – and What's All the Fuss About Anyway?

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts designed to give you an introduction to the world of sustainability and take you through the rationale, methods, best practices and reasons why you should get involved. And, how you create an ROI! SustainabilityPost1_intropic

What IS sustainability – and what's all the fuss about anyway?

I'll be upfront and admit that I'm no academic when it comes to sustainability, which I've become more and more involved with over the last few years. But fortunately, I’ve discovered that it really isn't rocket science! I suppose it was when the U.S. Government introduced the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, as a result of large corporate accounting scandals including Enron and Worldcom, that I first became aware of sustainability principles.

'The demand for openness is greater than ever...'

Sarbanes-Oxley shone a light on a complete lack of transparency and accountability by many large companies. It also prompted a demand from shareholders for greater corporate scrutiny and openness. Fast forward to today, and this demand is greater than ever.

Now companies are under pressure not just from shareholders, employees and stakeholders, but also from customers, public pressure groups and legislators. Areas of concern have widened to include the environment, ethics, people’s welfare, supplier sourcing and much more, in part driven by generation X, Y and millennials and the huge influence they hold through social media.

In a nutshell, corporate responsibility has been overtaken by the need for companies to be more ‘sustainable’ and think longer term.

So, just what IS sustainability?

Jonathon Porritt, the highly regarded UK environmentalist, once said:

“Something is sustainable if you can carry on doing it indefinitely. If you can’t, it isn’t.”

It's a simple but very effective rule of thumb!

Another way of looking at sustainability is through the '3 Ps':

  • support for the PEOPLE we connect with;
  • respect for the PLANET on which we depend;
  • and the need to earn a PROFIT to pay for our endeavours.


In fact these simple, common sense principles already form a bedrock for many successful, well-known businesses.

And while companies which fail to recognise the importance of sustainability could be putting themselves at risk from reputational damage, legal threats and severe financial consequences, there is a huge positive impact for those which voluntarily embrace sustainability best practices and make them work.

'Reputations are frequently more important than price...'

In today's new ultra-competitive, ultra-connected world, company reputations are frequently more important than price when it comes to consumer choice, critical for attracting and retaining the right staff, and successful CEOs are judged on far more than financial performance alone.

So to my mind, sustainability principles really are just common sense activities undertaken across all elements of a company's business.

That's why sustainability is rapidly becoming a 'business as usual' way of thinking.

A requirement for greater transparency from stakeholders, staff and customers, linked to a growth in worldwide legislation, is making sustainability best practice ‘a must do’!

Check out this interesting video introduction to sustainability:

Stay tuned for my next post in about two weeks: How does sustainability relate to business travel? If you can’t wait until then and want to learn more now, visit our Project ICARUS website.

I welcome your views and comments. Please feel free to comment below or email me at