Getting Back on the Road Smarter at Business Travel Show

Written by Mark Corbett on 16 March, 2021

Well, we may all be locked indoors working from home, this time of year still marks of the Business Travel Show. Whilst it was held online, our Director, Mark Corbett, was delighted to be invited to be one of the speakers for the sustainability panel, focused on getting back on the road smarter. In this post, we share the event video, and pull out a few key learnings.

We’ve learnt how well we can work from home

Precisely a year ago, most large enterprises had the belief employees couldn’t be trusted to work from home. They just wouldn’t be productive. Well, nothing like a global crisis to pull people together. Now the discussion has leapt forward. How quickly can we reduce office spending? How many regional offices do we need? Should employees only be expected at their desk half the time, so we can fit twice as many people into the same office? And from an employees perspective, where do I want to work? How do I want to work?

Net Zero targets are coming thick and fast

Right before the conference, Virgin Media announced their ambition to hit net zero by 2025* (read more over at Business Green.). Here at Thrust Carbon we welcome every single corporate that sets out a clear time frame. As we all know, goals are just the first step. Like taking on a health transformation, you need radical action; a better diet, better sleep, better hydration, and then you can think about that expensive gym and personal trainer. When it comes to going green, we’re all about clean data, easy to use technology, quick wins, and changing employee behaviour in the long term.

Accurate data is vital for defensible and achievable net zero and science based targets

As sustainability continues to become an even more pressing criteria for businesses, it is critical that we ensure we are empowering travel managers, programme owners AND travellers to be part of the solution. And that requires accurate and detailed data. We wouldn’t be satisfied with only understanding the average cost of travel, so why are we still satisfied with average and sporadic emissions numbers? You can’t reduce your financial travel budget based on average prices, and you won’t be able to reduce your emissions looking at average emissions data either.

A modern travel policy should encourage longer trips, with fewer flights, and a better traveller experience

Across our clients, air travel accounts for over 90% of all travel emissions, despite being anywhere from 50% to 20% of travel spend. If you are helping your employees travel less, have longer, more effective trips, not only can you dramatically slash emissions, but you may well find employees suffer less from burn out.

Long term change requires behavioural change

It’s one thing to set targets, but how do you positively drive your employees to making better, more sustainable decisions? Dashboards that make employees feel good about reducing their impact (which is exactly what we build for our clients), behaviour nudges throughout the booking process (which is what we do with our brilliant partners at Shep), and carbon accounting (considered the “the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary" by 3,000 economists & 27 Nobel Prize winners). This isn’t meant to be a sales blog, but we have built that too, for that reason.

Looking further afield, imagine ranking your flight options by emissions rather than just cost. This is technology that is a lot closer than SAF, and simply requires collaboration with the dominant OBTs, such as SAP.

Is SAF the future?

Yes and no. It can cut air emissions by up to 85%, which is astronomically brilliant. But - as you will hear in more depth in another great BTS panel here - SAF is expensive, deeply taxing on the environment to produce, and may only generate enough bio-fuels by 2030 to service 3-5% of the aviation industry. Just like carbon offset investments, it’s an industry that is in dire need of growth and capital injection from customers (in the latter’s case, airlines and corporations).

We can all apply pressure

We all work in travel, we have all experienced first hand how slow the industry can be to change. We’re in a climate emergency. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Engage different departments, see who else is working towards net zero, and bring in experts to help you out. (We offered a free insight at the conference, and we’ll offer that again to our early blog readers. Email a sample of your travel data in .csv format, and we’ll provide some top line analysis to get you started).

Can we offset the entire industry?

In the panel, Mark asked the audience to guess the cost of offsetting the entire global commercial aviation emissions of 2019.

We’ll reveal the answer later this week in our next post, so stay tuned!


*Do we believe Virgin Media will hit net-zero by 2025? We certainly hope they do, and hopefully they’ll publish their progress for transparency and to inspire others.

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