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Sustainability is not a priority for business travellers

sustainability in business travel survey by Emburse

Only 16% of business travellers prioritise sustainability in trip planning, despite desire for more eco-friendly travel options.

Emburse, the global leader in spend optimisation, today releases the findings of its latest research on attitudes towards sustainability amongst British business travellers. The Censuswide survey of 1,003 employees and 254 employers asked where sustainability fits within the business travel agenda, as trip volumes approach pre-pandemic levels.  The data showed that while the environment is front of mind for many companies and their travelling employees, the majority are yet to turn good intentions into concrete actions, and are placing the onus on the other to implement sustainable travel.

How are British businesses doing in including sustainability in business travel?

According to the report, 38% of businesses reported increased investment in sustainability, with 71% reporting having a formal sustainability policy or guidelines in place. However, only 37% of these businesses actively enforce these policies during bookings and travel expense approvals.

Only one in six employees cited sustainability as their key priority when making travel plans, significantly below both cost and traveller convenience. Whilst environmental concerns remain a low priority during the booking process for business travellers, 71% said their employer should do more to enable sustainable travel. Meanwhile, the majority (76%) of employees also agreed they would take a more sustainable mode of transport if financial incentives or sustainability programmes were available.

Demand for sustainable business travel options has increased

Since Emburse’s 2021 survey looking at sustainable business travel post-pandemic, employee demand for sustainable travel incentives has risen by 19%. The 2021 data also found only one in nine (11%) employers had listed sustainability as an important factor for business travel arrangements. Two years on, cost is ultimately the most important factor when it comes to booking business travel for both businesses and employees.

Key findings

1.Sustainability policies

71% of businesses currently provide guidance for sustainable travel

  • Of which, 38% have a formal policy, and 33% have a set of guidelines in place
  • Meanwhile, beyond hybrid working structures only 37% actively enforce policy to encourage sustainable travel for both the commute and business travel
  • 43% are considering implementing initiatives and incentives (such as travel budget incentives, cycle to work schemes and remote training) to encourage sustainable employee travel
  • 25% of businesses do not have a business travel sustainability policy
  • And 6% do not plan to implement one

2.Priorities when travelling

  • 38% of businesses have increased investment in sustainability
  • Over a quarter (27%) have reduced sustainability investment, due to higher cost of doing business
  • When booking business travel, 31% of business travellers prioritise cost-effectiveness, followed by:
    • Convenience and accessibility (27%)
    • Loyalty and rewards programmes (21%)
    • Sustainability (16%)
    • Meanwhile, only 26% would proactively cut down on travel to reduce their carbon footprint

3.Employee appetite for sustainable travel

  • 71% of employees want their employer to do more to enable sustainable travel
  • A small minority (7%) of employees do not want employers to do more to enable sustainable travel
  • 76% of employees would choose a more sustainable mode of transport if their employer provided programmes or financial incentives
  • Employee demand for incentivised sustainable travel has increased by 19% since 2021, according to previous Emburse findings
  • 74% employees believe it is their organisation’s responsibility to do more to enable sustainable business travel, regardless of cost


Jeroen van Velzen, SVP Travel & Mobility at Emburse, commented:

“Business travel has defied expectations by seeing an almost complete return to pre-pandemic levels. But we can’t just go back to business as usual when it comes to emissions. Businesses and travellers both need to work on reducing their carbon footprint. It’s promising that more organisations are putting sustainability guidelines and policies into place, but this data shows we still have a long way to go until it becomes a priority.”

“Whilst travel managers could strictly enforce their companies’ policies to help achieve carbon goals, this heavy-handed approach risks alienating travelling employees. Educating travellers about the impact of their trips in easy-to-understand terms – like how many houses could be powered by the energy used on a trip – can lead to much higher levels of compliance. Employers need to provide employees with tools to make smarter decisions, and employees need to use that insight to make more environmentally friendly travel plans. We need to move beyond paying lip service to environmental issues and turn good intent into meaningful action.”


About Emburse

Emburse is the global leader in spend optimisation. Our expense, travel management, purchasing and accounts payable, and payments solutions are trusted by more than 12 million business professionals, including CFOs, finance teams, and travellers. More than 18,000 organisations in 120 countries, including FORTUNE 100 corporations, high-growth startups, public sector agencies, and nonprofits, count on our intelligent automation, sophisticated analytics, and unmatched spend control to streamline processes, increase spend visibility, enhance compliance, and deliver positive financial outcomes.  We humanise work. We eliminate manual, time-consuming tasks, so our customers and their teams can focus on what matters most in their personal and professional lives.

For more information on Emburse, visit, or follow our social channels at @emburse.