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Bosses Dragging Their Feet On Green Travel Behaviour, ACTE-KDS Poll Finds

Aviation - 9th February 2010

Corporate Social Responsibility not abandoned in the recession, but top managers should set a better example in choosing green travel

Business Travel Show, London, February 9, 2010 – According to a new global study, organisations are sticking with their commitment to greener travel, despite the recession, but bosses are felt to be setting a poor example in their own travel choices.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and KDS, the European leader in online Travel & Expense management systems, have undertaken an international survey of attitudes towards business travel and the environment. In December 2009 and January 2010, the opinions of 317 business travellers and procurement and travel executives were gauged via an online poll.

Unsurprisingly, cost-cutting is said to be the top business travel priority for organisations, but it is striking that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes have not been ditched in the recession. The majority of respondents (57%) disagree that their company would care less about CSR because of the financial crisis. Supporting environmental sustainability is also still a mid-tier corporate concern, also according to a majority (46%) of those expressing a view.

However, most respondents (45%) say top managers set a bad example in the ‘greenness’ of their travel choices. The worst offenders are in France and United States: 44% of respondents in France say their managers set a poor example (good example: 36%); bosses in the US are also slammed by 44% of respondents (supported by 39%). The UK has the most virtuous bosses, whose travel choices are approved of by 51% of UK respondents (although criticised by 41%).

Other findings include:

  • The majority of respondents (61%) saw employers cut the amount of business travel undertaken in 2009.
  • Frustrating hopes for quick economic recovery, almost three-quarters expect to travel only the same amount this year, or even less (51%: travel unchanged; 21%: fewer trips). This is partly offset by the 27% who expect to travel more.
  • Around 19% say travel reductions resulted from CSR goals as well as cost-cutting objectives.
  • A growing number of travel departments are believed to report to senior management on business travel carbon emissions: in this survey, only 55% said this was not the case, versus 61% the previous year.

Respondents were asked what might help them travel in a more ecologically-conscious way. Most would like greater information about the carbon emissions of a travel option before booking – 66% say this is something they would welcome. Some 59% of respondents say they would like more guidance on their employers’ CSR and travel policies.

ACTE President Richard Crum says: “It is a great relief to see that Corporate Social Responsibility remains a strong priority for many corporations, and an equally strong concern for travellers, who are making an effort to reduce their impact on the planet. It is understandable that the last year has seen corporate leadership focus on the financial health of their companies.  However, it is important to recognize that truly sustainable businesses balance the demands of shareholders with respect for the environment and the people and communities they impact every day.”

Yves Weisselberger, CEO of KDS, adds: “It is great to see that CSR has been taken to heart by so many organisations. However, the survey reveals that employees would like more help in making green travel choices. Online travel booking tools can be powerful in this regard, helping with policy enforcement, carbon calculators and highlighting low-carbon options. However, there is still much more to be done through employee communications, and here – as in their individual travel choices – top managers must take the lead.

The full report on the 2010 ACTE-KDS survey is available upon request.