Torn: Business travel decisions based on economic climate not environmental concerns

04 Aug 2009 11:44 GMT

Increased awareness of company environmental policies could save businesses money in economic downturn
Business travellers show support for an environmental tax on airlines and trains

Research released today from the Barclaycard Commercial Business Travel Survey shows that greater focus on managing environmental impacts in an effort to drive down business travel costs does not appear to be working.   

The deciding factor in these decisions is not longer term environmental impact, but short term responses to the current business climate.   Of the 15 per cent of business travellers who anticipated travelling less this year, three out of five respondents (57%) will be doing this in response to declining business or cost issues and only one per cent as a result of a company environmental policy. 

More than a quarter (26%) of all respondents increasingly believe the onus is on employers to manage the effects of business travel on the environment, up eight per cent from last year.  As the turnover of a company increases the pressure on a company also grows with a third (34%) of respondents, working in companies with a turnover of more than £100 million, believing it is their company’s responsibility to reduce the impact on the environment.  Respondents also reported that the Government should have overriding responsibility of the environmental impact of business travel (33%), with a fifth (19%) saying it is the individual’s responsibility and a tenth (12%) the responsibility of airlines and other travel suppliers.

By setting in place a stringent company travel policy, the opportunity to align business and strategic goals could be established. At present less than a fifth of respondents (18%) have an environmental policy at work governing business travel and over a tenth (11%) of those questioned didn’t know whether their company did have a policy in place.  Even fewer companies monitor their business travel carbon footprint (7%) or offset their carbon emissions (4%). 

There is a strong belief that airlines should be taxed to compensate for the effect of carbon emissions on the environment with more than half of respondents (53%) agreeing that a tax should be put in place, of which 62 per cent believe the tax should be passed on to passengers.  This falls to a third of respondents (29%) believing that a similar tax should be brought in for train companies, for which, 58 per cent agree the cost should be passed on to passengers.  An overwhelming 64 per cent of business travellers do not think air travel should be restricted to help protect the environment.  

Neil Radley, Managing Director of Barclaycard Commercial, commented:

“2009 will see the environment make gains as business travel is trimmed back in the face of economic uncertainty.  But it is sad that this is not due to firm policies putting sustainability at the heart of the business process.  These policies would ensure that we crystallise long-term gains: both for the environment and for businesses in terms of bottom line and improved competitiveness.  It makes commercial sense to nurture green shoots.”

Whilst 37 per cent of business travellers are seeing environmental concerns partially or significantly impacting their choice of business travel, a majority 59 per cent state that environmental concerns have no impact on their travel.  The ways in which those affected by environmental concerns are changing their business travel habits include a move to more environmentally friendly forms of transport (32%), a reduction in travel (26%) and a greater reliance on technology (30%).    

Additional findings:

- There is a clear difference in behaviour between senior management and more junior positions. Environmental concerns influence (partially or significantly) 30 per cent of Chairmen versus 54 per cent of personal assistants and secretaries.

- The 18-30 year olds are more likely to be significantly impacted by environmental concerns than any other age group (7% compared to average of 4%). 

- The higher the turnover of the company the more likely it is to be partially or significantly affected by environmental concerns (40% £20m + v 29% less than £250k). 

Notes to Editors:

The 13th annual Barclaycard Commercial Business Travel Survey was conducted in December 2008, amongst a nationwide sample of Barclaycard Commercial card holders.  A total of 2,202 respondents (CEOs, chairmen, non-executives, financial directors, executive directors, managers and personal assistants) provided their thoughts on all aspects of business travel including attitudes to the environment and in-flight technology, airlines and hotel preferences and online bookings. 


About Barclaycard

Barclaycard, part of Barclays Bank PLC, is a leading global payment business that helps consumers, retailers and businesses to make and take payments flexibly, and to access short-term credit and point of sale finance.

The company is a pioneer of new forms of payments and is at the forefront of developing viable contactless and mobile payment schemes for today and cutting edge forms of payment for the future. Barclaycard also partners with a wide range of organisations across the globe to offer their customers or members payment options and credit.

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