American Express Global Business Travel VP for global product and user experience Mark McSpadden issues a call to action to advance sustainable travel.
As the travel industry emerges from the pandemic, we have never experienced a stronger push to transform travel into a catalyst for environmental progress. After seeing the negative impact of zero travel, businesses are urgently seeking ways to travel more responsibly while continuing to benefit from all the good things travel can bring.
As with any transformation, this calls for significant technological innovation. The energy and aviation industries are making progress on new technologies for net-zero aviation.
For example, sustainable aviation fuels will emit 80 percent less carbon over the entire life cycle of the fuel. In the meantime, businesses are turning to travel management companies and other tech providers for tools to influence employees to book more sustainable travel options and simplify carbon tracking and reporting. In turn, our technology development requires consistent, reliable data on carbon emissions. That can be challenging to obtain in a fragmented ecosystem.
Let’s Agree On Data Standards
With the right data, online booking tools can encourage travelers to choose the best options. Reporting tools can help travel managers track emissions from transient travel and meetings and events. What’s needed today is a consolidated effort across the travel ecosystem to establish standards in carbon dioxide calculations and sustainability labeling for suppliers. This will help travel tech developers more quickly build more effective solutions for customers.
Today, no two CO2 calculation methodologies are the same. Depending on the company and country, an interested party might use one from the U.K.’s Defra, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ademe in France or any of several other standards to calculate emissions. If operations span multiple countries, especially any not covered by these standards, the task is even more complex.
Similar issues exist across all aspects of the trip. Car rental companies use different codes in booking displays to express the availability of electric vehicles and hybrid cars. In the lodging space, an array of sustainability labels flags for travelers “green” or “eco-friendly” properties. Companies may adapt one or more standards depending on the property, chain or location. And if we look at the “last mile” of a trip, there’s an opportunity to capture the carbon impact of choosing to walk, bike or use electric scooters.
To help travelers make the right choices, online booking tools should strive to be transparent and exhaustive. This requires creating multiple data connections and mapping disparate supplier standards into one coherent set of attributes users can quickly understand and compare.
With Trust In The Data, We Can Innovate Faster
Using standardized measures across all travel will unlock a more comprehensive and viable path to meeting ambitious sustainability goals. For that, solutions are beginning to emerge.
There are aggregators for the many “green” hotel labels in use. CO2 calculation methodologies are maturing. Solutions like Lumo and Chooose help improve the data used by travel booking solutions. IATA’s Fly Net Zero is taking steps in the right direction, including the release of a standard CO2 methodology. Last year, we at Amex GBT joined the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, an organization that helps promote transparency for hotel bookings.
Getting the industry to agree on a single source of truth to standardize and aggregate data sources and calculation methodologies will speed up the pace of innovation. Once there is a basic understanding and trust in the data, we can move on to creating solutions that truly drive net-zero progress. The engineering hours once used to connect and map disparate data sources can now be used for developing better ways to use that data and build more compelling user experiences. This will increase adoption of decarbonization tools and empower travel managers to drive impactful sustainability policies. Relevant data can be pulled in, stored, filtered and reported in a meaningful way across entire travel programs. Offsets can be enacted. SAFs can be properly provisioned and used.
Working Together Is The Only Way
To reach our destination, we need to take this journey together. By collaborating effectively, we can develop the technology companies need to empower both travel managers and travelers to drive change. We are committed to helping companies take as much carbon out of their travel as possible and offsetting what remains. For that, we need a consolidated effort across the travel ecosystem with standards to help solution providers build more effective technology, faster. This will help us ensure that along with economic progress, travel can contribute to environmental progress as well.