At least that is what one regional survey of medium- to large-sized firms on attitudes towards ESG initiatives shows.
In a survey of 648 respondents who were senior- and mid-level managers in corporate travel, finance, HR, procurement and sustainability in Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea working in organizations with 100 to 1,000 (51%) or more-than-1,000 employees (49%), it has been concluded that 86% of APAC respondents were actively considering sustainability when managing corporate travel.
More than half of the APAC firms surveyed indicated that they had committed resources to championing sustainability. About 34% of them had someone to manage sustainability as part of their role, while 21% had dedicated personnel handling sustainability.
About 56% of the respondents indicated their ‘senior leadership’ was driving the sustainability agenda for corporate travel. Other than senior leadership, other respondents had cited ‘employees’ (47%) as being “responsible for sustainability initiatives”, or being “responsible for corporate travel” (41%).
According to the Air Transport Action Group, aviation is responsible for 12% of CO2 emissions from all transport sources; and the World Resources Institute reported that business travel represents about 15% to 20% of global travel.
With these estimates in mind, respondents in the survey had outlined a range of priorities for sustainable travel, based on their goals to:
- Increase operational efficiency (70%)
- Have positive brand awareness and reputation externally (67%)
- Cut costs (66%)
Some respondents (63%) thought sustainable travel policies could become a competitive differentiator in attracting new talent in a competitive market. Challenges cited included:
- Lack of budget (37%)
- Lack of employee engagement (32%)
- Lack of professional tools to visualise the environmental impact of travel (31%)
- Lack of policy flexibility and adaptability (31%)
- 71% of APAC respondents already realised they needed to harness technology to become sustainable effectively: 38% had software in place to support corporate travel and expense management, while 33% planned to acquire such software “very soon”
- Some 60% of APAC respondents indicated they had “good” or “excellent” business travel data for their software to analyze
- Some 81% of respondents ‘knew’ that travelling by rail was more sustainable than travelling by air (in terms of carbon emitted per traveler)
- 76% of respondents were willing to shift from airplanes to trains for at least 20% of existing travels, relevant to corporate travelers in China and Japan where there is a prevalence of high-speed trains in key routes
- Some 65% of respondents indicated they were currently reimbursing employees for EV charging costs; another 16% had plans to do so “very soon”
According to Matthew Goss, Senior Vice President & General Manager (Asia Pacific and Greater China), SAP Concur, which commissioned the survey: “The (latest) research findings are a significant departure from the pre-pandemic days where APAC organizations were more concerned about travel cost savings than the environmental impact of their actions.”
Pointing to the use of technology to guide workers toward sustainable itinerary/accommodation options, tracking emissions, and ultimately formulating more efficient and sustainable travel strategies, Goss believed that the reduction of pollution during the drastic pandemic control measures has made organizations and workers more motivated to take action.
“This shift of focus to bigger picture issues is a pivotal moment—not just for businesses to run better and be more profitable, but for more sustainable business practices to take root,” Goss said.