Corporates increase focus on ESG but challenges remain

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Large companies want to offer more sustainable business travel options for their employees but significant hurdles still need to be overcome, according to research by travel technology company Amadeus.

A survey of around 900 corporates and travel companies across nine key markets, including the UK, Germany, France and Spain, found that nearly half (46 per cent) were spending more on meeting their ESG objectives in 2023 than they did last year.

For corporations, their top ESG priorities include creating a sustainability plan or roadmap, reducing energy consumption, improving the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, as well as reducing carbon emissions.

Corporate priorities include offering more sustainable choices for travellers but there are obstacles such as a lack of transparency for staff around travel and expense policies (cited by 38 per cent of corporate respondents), a lack of clarity on sustainability objectives (38 per cent) and the potentially increased costs of more sustainable trips (36 per cent).

ESG decision-makers agree that technology could make this process easier – such as utilising generative AI interfaces to guide travellers towards more sustainable travel options at every stage of their journey. Another potential solution is the advent of technologies that help to develop more alternative sustainable fuels for transport.

Among travel suppliers, the top ESG priorities include sustainability and the social impact of travel, as well as the health, safety and wellbeing of employees, alongside the development, learning and growth of staff members.

They also agree about the potential for AI interfaces to help “accelerate” the achievement of environmental sustainability targets, with business travel specialists “more receptive” to using AI in this way than agents who specialise in leisure travel.

To help reach these targets, travel firms want to see more guidance on ESG standards across regions, as well as the introduction of sustainability-related regulations and carbon emissions calculation standards. 

While the survey showed widespread optimism about achieving goals (89 per cent believe the travel industry can reach its net zero targets by 2050), barriers remain to the successful implementation of different environment, social and governance initiatives.

For example, 40 per cent of respondents cited cost as the biggest obstacle to meeting environmental commitments. Meanwhile a lack of technology and knowledge, alongside higher costs, could hinder both social and governance initiatives. 

Jackson Pek, SVP and group general counsel at Amadeus, said: “As the travel industry continues to navigate the complexity of delivering on ESG targets, I’m encouraged by the optimism and the commitments being put in place – from investments to strategic planning to technological solutions.  

“At Amadeus, we’re working to embed ESG at the core of our business, supporting travel players on their journey to becoming more efficient and enabling travellers to make more informed choices. Together, we can make travel more sustainable.”

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