ITM Sustainability Taskforce Publishes Guide to Help Buyers Build Responsible Travel Programmes

25 Sep 2023

The Institute of Travel Management (ITM) has published a guide to help its buyer members develop policies that encourage more sustainable business travel. The paper, entitled ‘Building Responsible Travel Programmes’, has been written in response to a growing and urgent need for companies to meet carbon reduction targets.

Kerry Douglas, Head of Programme, ITM, said: “While business travel is only a small percentage of total global emissions, it is often a significant portion of the CO2 generated by many companies. There is, therefore, a growing demand for more responsible policies that help reduce emissions while enabling purposeful business travel to continue. This guide will help travel managers future-proof travel programmes and contribute towards companies meeting carbon reduction targets.”

The paper is the output from ITM’s Sustainability Taskforce which was established in March this year in response to ITM buyer members’ growing concerns about how best to approach bringing sustainable practices into their programmes and influence the behaviour of their travellers. It provides extensive practical advice to buyers at any stage of their sustainability journey, across any industry, and recommends steps buyers can use to get started. These include:

•    Understand your company’s carbon targets
•    Identify allies and engage with them 
•    Get the right data
•    Revisit targets and KPIs

A key element of the guide is a suggested matrix, setting out actions across a scale of simple to complex and level of impact. At the top of the matrix, there are four key actions that have the potential to deliver the greatest impact and these include: 

•    Gaining senior leadership engagement and support - this is the number one requirement given every organisation is different in terms of the industry they operate in, culture, travel programme characteristics and commitments in ESG.
•    Travel Policy Updates & Changes - driving change through suppliers, education, and modal shift.
•    Demand Management – reviewing alongside business owners what can be done in terms of managing demand and how that demand can be met through alternative forms of meeting and/or transport.
•    Investment in insets (SAF) and/or removals - business travel is a force for good so stopping this altogether is not realistic or advisable due to the wider economic, societal, and cultural benefits it brings.  Therefore, as an industry, we must collectively seek to support the acceleration of decarbonisation, such as signalling demand for SAF, alongside reviewing what actions can be taken to remove carbon (in addition to any offsetting investments ) in order to reach net zero commitments. These actions require engagement and direction by senior leadership.

The matrix complements the work already undertaken by the GBTA Foundation’s Sustainability Initiative and Sustainability Toolkit. Accompanying the main guide are several appendices featuring case studies and more detailed explanations of steps buyers can take to plan for the future, including links to additional GBTA resources**

Kerry Douglas added: “By clearly defining the vision of what a responsible travel programme looks like and having the buy-in from all stakeholders, Travel Managers have a prime opportunity to educate and lead their organisations in helping to meet their sustainability objectives. ITM sincerely hopes that this guide and accompanying appendices provide actional insights and practical support to our buyer community so that they can take an informed conversation forward. Not everyone will need to read the full document or appendices and therefore this resource is meant to offer choice in how much background or detail they need.”

ITM’s ‘Building Responsible Travel Programmes’ Guide is available here and the accompanying Appendices are available here.