By Baya Faure and Claudia Gualdi
What is nature-positive travel?
Nature-positive travel promotes a respectful approach to the environment when travelling, in order to prevent damages and waste. The tourism industry is responsible for 8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it a significant contributor to the climate crisis.
While most studies focus on the impact of tourism on the environment, this attention is very much relevant to the business travel industry as well, particularly at a time when international business travel continues its rebound with numbers reaching 50 percent of 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
Challenges from biodiversity loss to climate change play an important role in driving sustainable business strategy. These issues, among others, are also embraced by individual travellers. In the UK, 78 percent of business travellers surveyed said sustainability will be an ‘important consideration’ in 2023.
The two years of hiatus in air travel with the pandemic saw worldwide carbon emissions decrease by 7 percent. Indeed, airlines have adopted a climate goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Can business travel be nature-positive and sustainable?
Business travel is one of the greatest contributors to carbon emissions due to its dependence on air and land transport, with the CO2 footprint of first-class seats being four times higher than that of economy. As such, meeting Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) target goals has been a priority for many companies in the past years.
Reducing the environmental impact of business travel is a goal achievable at every stage of the trip, from the booking phase until return. Reframing a traveller’s relationship with nature to encourage biodiversity is central to nature-positive travel. Albeit a challenging endeavour, it is possible.
Change can be done at every stage, bottom-up. This mode of thinking goes beyond minimising damage. Nature-positive travel implies an active role of the travellers, expecting them to actively contribute to the environmental well-being of their destination. Advocacy, employee engagement and training are a must on a company’s path to sustainability.
5 tips for your next trip
1. Consider more sustainable travel options
Rail services are increasingly covering routes that were typically covered by short-haul flights. Cities with accessible public transport and good rail networks are better options for reducing carbon footprint; reliable timetables and regular routes make this mode of transportation worthwhile, especially when needing to reach meeting venues on time.
Europe is certainly a forerunner when it comes to these policies, as short-haul rail travel routes are of growing interest among European countries. Similar advantages of rail travel can be enjoyed in parts of Asia as well, while efforts to make this option more commercially attractive in the Americas continue more slowly.
2. Choose sustainable accommodation facilities and climate-resilient locations
Green hotels are growing exponentially. From installing green energy equipment to shutting off air-conditioning or lights after a certain time, the hotel industry is making an active effort to be environmentally conscious.
In major cities, a list of the best green hotels can be found on the internet, and Booking.com – the world’s largest accommodation booking website – has specific tags to refine a traveller’s search according to their environmentally-conscious needs. A multitude of new location-search networks, such as Ecobnb, KindTraveler or BookItGreen, allow easy browsing for booking sustainable hotels and homes.
3. Move around the city with sustainable transport methods
Bike rentals, trams, metros and buses can all be run on 100% renewable energy. Big cities are increasingly enhancing public transport and transport-sharing services.
In Seoul, the city’s Sharing City Project, launched in 2012, has enabled local startups to push for increased use of car sharing. In London, 80% of commuting is done by foot, cycling and public transport.
4. Avoid single-use plastics, bring your own utensils
In a combined effort, the list of countries around the globe starting to ban single-use plastics is expanding, and therefore travellers are encouraged in more locations to bring their own utensils, often being offered discounts if shopping with their own bags or takeaway coffees in their own cups.
5. Extend your stay
By combining business with pleasure, a traveller can offset their carbon footprint by blending two trips into one. The demand for blended or “bleisure” travel among employees is rising, travel managers say.