ETHICAL BUSINESS TRAVEL: Without trashing the environment.

Is it possible to travel ethically while on business?

Here are a few ideas that might just lessen an organisation’s adverse impact on the environment and local communities.

A to B Let the train take the strain

Do we really enjoy flying anymore? So check out other modes of transport which might be pleasanter and more conducive to working on the move, train and coach operators are now providing WiFi and in-seat power connections as standard in several countries.

Always factor in travel to and from the airport and check-in times and hassle when evaluating journeys.

Logistics Logistics Logistics

With just a modicum of forward planning it’s possible to secure accommodation which isn’t a two hour drive from your arrival point and 20km in the other direction to your meeting or event.

Loosen the chains – Go Native

Whether travelling to Boston Lincolnshire or Boston Massachusetts consider staying at an independent owned hotel. In the UK check out The Independent Hotel Association; in the USA try The Green Hotels Association members; internationally The Green Hotelier is a leading source of information on the sustainable and responsible within the hotel industry. While there is currently no worldwide uniform standard for hotel environmental status several hotels are promoting a caring approach to hostelry by;

  • Providing complimentary use of hotel bicycles for residents
  • Donating mattresses and other furnishings to charitable organisations
  • LED lighting to reduce carbon emission from electricity generation
  • Membership of a Community Agriculture programme
  • Recycling initiatives and composting of food waste and reuse of fryer oil.
  • Reducing water usage with low flow showers, toilets and garden sprinkler systems
  • Meaningful statements on sustainable purchasing, maintenance, and staff education plans.
  • LEED certified buildings – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most popular green building certification programmes used worldwide
  • Aircon has an ECO facility on air-conditioning units. Don’t freeze turn the Aircon off.
  • Donating unused soap and toiletries to organisations such as Clean The World in North America and Asia, which processes, sanitises and ships items to areas of most need of hygiene products
  • Ensure your actions are not endangering local fauna, flora and species.

Also, during your stay by choosing independent traders such as cafes and restaurants which serve seasonal, locally source products you are supporting the real economy and reducing food air miles.

Wake up and Smell the Coffee

Staff terms, conditions and pay are unlikely to be advertised but some employers do sign up to the Living Wage Foundation and can be found listed on the foundation’s website. The person pouring your tea or coffee, serving your food or cleaning the restrooms would be better off on a Living Wage rather than the Minimum Wage. Their general conditions of employment are going to be several levels below the average wage. Globally the International Labour Organisation campaigns for workers’ rights in over 180 countries. If more customers asked the question of hotels and other organisations maybe this issue would improve.

On a similar topic – to tip or not to tip. First take into account local customs and always be careful of adding a gratuity to a credit card payment that the intended member of staff will receive the payment. Beware of the tips bottle allegedly shared between the staff, this can go straight into the management’s coffers. When in doubt, to recognise good service pass your offering unobtrusively to the intended recipient.

Save the planet – Ditch the plastic and one use cups.

Re-filling your water bottle from a safe mains water supply or a larger container is preferably to a daily collection of small bottles.

Pack an insulated drinks mug and savour hot or cold drinks without the litter.

Travelling Around

With a logistically well-chosen location local travel is minimised, opening up walking as a viable option. Other options range from cycling with “Boris” bike type hire schemes, sustainably powered taxis and public transport. It is important not to judge all public transport on your experience at your home base. UK regional provision varies widely and Europe, Asia and the USA can offer outstanding integrated systems which offer fast, clean and inexpensive transport.

Travel without a Ticket

Go Ticketless. With the growth in travel apps and travel cards the need to print out tickets and confirmation emails is usually unnecessary. The saving in paper, ink and energy while not completely a win-win situation because smart phones and tablets require charging and their manufacture has wide ranging impacts it can be look at as a small reduction particular as these items are become redundant immediately after the journey.

Think Big – Go Green

Avoid small bottles of everything from wine to shampoo (unless refilling a reusable 100ml travel bottle). The proportion of packing to product ratio increases as product size diminishes. So, include a wine stopper in your luggage to save that half bottle of vino for another occasion.

Event Catering – Enough is as good as a feast

If you are organising the catering for your meeting or conference prioritise local independent suppliers e.g. those suppliers which are based in the neighbourhood. State your preference for jugs of water and glasses not bottles and plastic cups; food not entombed in hard plastic or individually wrapped in cling film; insist on healthy and fresh items and get a grip on portion size – be realistic in what quantities are really required. If there is likely to be waste ensure that it is kept in good condition and passed onto staff or better still go the extra mile and hand it on to someone in need on the street; no matter which city centre you are in a homeless person is never more than 500 metres away from you.

Time for Feedback

The final act before we escape the corporate shindig is the ubiquitous feedback form. Why not take this opportunity to comment on the ethical and environmental features of event; from its location – making green transport modes easy or impossible; how environmental friendly was the venue and remark on the levels of waste and any oversupply; or the availability of Fair Trade/organic products.

So in the same way a business selects and approves suppliers apply a similar strategy to travel partners. Whether you decide to make major changes to company arrangements and accommodation practices or small steps in ethical travel policy – at least have a policy. Even minor positive actions will have a significant effect when multiplied by the growing numbers of business travellers. Therefore, ask questions, research the answers and make decisions based on your organisations policies.

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