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Making business travel sustainable

As sustainability awareness becomes more mainstream, SAP Concur managing director ANZ MATTHEW GOSS reflects on the ways companies can reduce their environmental footprints and how promoting sustainable travel choices won’t work against their success.

Matthew Goss


Organisations are gradually making the shift towards sustainability in many areas of their business, but there’s an ongoing and pressing need for sustainable practices to be applied to business travel as well.


Travelling for business significantly increases pollution and emissions, so it’s crucial organisations implement policies, procedures, and environmentally friendly business travel alternatives, to reduce business travel’s carbon footprint. 


Organisations tend to book journey for their employees based oncost, speed, and convenience. This focus makes sense because work-related travel is only increasing, creating escalating costs for businesses. 


A recent report highlighted the rapid growth of international travellers, stating that the next decade will see half a billion new international trips. It’s likely a large portion of these trips will be business oriented. Travel costs can take a toll on organisations, leaving them searching for options that are cost-effective rather than environmentally friendly. On top of thismany organisations spend time dealing with paper receipts, booking confirmations, and expense claims that end up in landfill. 


Organisations need to know that most sustainable travel options won’t necessarily cost more money, or slow employees down, and it’s important for employees who travel regularly for work to have sustainable travel options to choose from.  



For example, where possible, organisations and travelling employees should opt for train travel instead of travel by air or car. Not only does train travel incur lower emissions than planes or cars, but travelling between cities by train can be more reliable and cheaper travel alternativeConsidering train travel above other transport options and fitting train trips into employees’ travel itineraries can help organisations reduce their environmental footprint.


Likewise, when car and plane travel is necessary, businessesshould offer their employees a range of transport options, with variables including price, time of arrival, and emissionsreduction options. Including this information in online travel management systems helps employees make more environmentally-conscious decisions where they can.  


Organisations can also cut down on employee business travel altogether. Often, employees can replace in-person meetings with virtual catch-ups, and travel booking systems can remind employees of this option before they lock in flights or rent cars. Business travel apps can alert employees to video conferencingfeatures that might suit their needs during travel booking processes, encouraging employees to avoid booking unnecessary travel. 


Employee travel and expense management can also waste paper. Digital expense and invoicing solutions eliminate paper waste, as travel information including booking numbers and itinerariesare stored and processed in the cloud. This also means that travelling employees don’t need to keep track of numerous receipts and invoices for their expense claims. Paperless travel management processes are highly beneficial from a sustainability as well as an efficiency perspective.  


E-invoicing is another measure organisations can consider to reduce paper use, boost efficiency, and save money. E-invoicing businesses connect and trade electronically, completely paper-free. Research reveals the average office worker usesapproximately 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper a year, withaccounting and finance staff likely to use over 20,000 pages. Traditional paper invoicing presents a significant business and environmental challenge, being unsustainable and highly unproductive. Organisations can save one to two per cent of their turnover by replacing paper invoicing with electronic invoice management, and improving their supply chain.



In March 2018, Australia and New Zealand agreed to adopt common e-invoicing approaches. E-invoicing will help businesses engage in direct invoice exchanges with suppliersand buyers financial systems, saving time and money.


Beyond the environmental challenge paper presents to businesses, manually processing invoices is often error-prone. Physical invoices can also go missing, become damaged, or get stolen, opening organisations up to compliance and security concerns. Adopting automated invoice management systemskeeps payment data safe and accounted for, providing financeprofessionals with more time to focus on the work that matters. 


Modern, cloud-based apps can automate and enhance expense management to give chief finance officers and finance managers greater control over and visibility into their company’s travel expenses. Automated expense tools and platforms can also help organisations boost productivity and compliance.


Travelling employees can significantly benefit from the outcomes of online, app-based expense solutions. Employees can use these tools to better organise and plan trips and travel needs, and shape their travel itineraries around a range of considerations, including cost, timing, and sustainability. Employees using online travel management apps can also lodge payment claims from any part of the world by uploading electronic receipts, or taking photos of their receipts to store on the app. 


This means business travellers no longer need to sort through multiple expenses for restaurants, hotels, taxis or transport, and no longer need to hold on to paper receipts. Armed with this convenience, employees can spend more time working while travelling, instead of worrying about expense management.


Business travel presents major challenges to sustainability efforts, so it’s essential organisations motivate employees to make environmentally-minded choices when it comes to booking travel, and encourage them to use digital online booking and travel management tools. New technologies are helping organisations reduce their carbon footprints without impacting on cost-saving or efficiency.


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Written by: Matthew Goss for Traveltalk
Published: 26 June 2019

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