How we in the business travel industry can be principal players in the journey towards net zero

Nora Lovell Marchant

Nora Lovell Marchant, vice president global sustainability,
American Express Global Business Travel

The agreements that world leaders forge at COP26 are meant
to chart a clearer course to achieving climate targets, but it will ultimately
fall to business to fulfil many of these solutions. It’s the private sector
that drives the investment, innovation and technology development that’s necessary
to shift the planet to net zero.

However, many organisations are unsure how to reduce their
own emissions and have yet to formulate action plans. More than half of the FTSE
100 don’t have net-zero targets set, and less than a quarter have
scientifically approved plans to reach net zero.

Aviation comprises nearly 3 per cent of global carbon
emissions and business travel is a significant contributor. But travel isn’t
the problem – carbon is the problem. In fact, business travel can power
progress on sustainability. The sector is strategically positioned to help organisations
move the needle on net-zero. Business travel is a highly concentrated industry;
we have the influence – and ambition – to accelerate meaningful change.

Together we have the ability to coordinate across supply chains, sectors and borders to empower solutions and catalyse change

One of the recommendations to business from the independent
report to the UK Climate Change Commission is to ‘do the basics well – measure,
disclose, target, act, adjust’. The business travel sector can help drive this,
designing and implementing policies and programmes to support sustainability
targets. Travel managers and their partners can now pull several levers,

  • Track and report, analysing emissions data for
    actionable insights.
  • Influence choice, shifting travel decisions at
    point of sale in booking tools.
  • Procure sustainable products and services. One
    small example; this year we worked with Cvent to create for the industry a template
    of corporate responsibility and sustainability questions for the hotel RFP
  • Promote offsets – that is, independently verified,
    high-quality carbon credits.
  • Drive towards net-zero aviation, which is
    economically and technically challenging – yet achievable with sustainable
    aviation fuel (SAF).

SAF can offer an 80 per cent reduction in lifecycle carbon
emissions compared to fossil-based jet fuel. While it’s currently only
available in tiny quantities – 0.1 per cent of jet fuel available today – SAF
is the most viable option in the near and medium term to achieve net-zero
aviation. Other technologies are important and promising – but decades away
from creating real impact. Ramping up SAF production and deployment to meet
growing demand is a massive feat but we can achieve this, together.

Working in collaboration with Shell Aviation, GBT is helping
scale up SAF supply and demand by aggregating corporate demand and unlocking
investment and production
. This is just one example of the type of innovative
partnerships that can be formed when we reach across value chains to bring all
corners of our industry together.

There are few industries in the world more international
than business travel. Together we have the ability to coordinate across supply chains,
sectors and borders to empower solutions and catalyse change. We need to lean
into this.

Another way we can work together is to unite in advocating
for government support and action. If we work to combine inventive practices with
policy, we can amplify the business travel industry’s positive impact.

There are some immediate asks around which we can speak as a
single, powerful voice to government. These include:

  • International advocacy. The International
    Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations, will
    convene in less than a year to decide the fate of the global aviation sector on
    sustainability. Let’s collectively call on ICAO to raise its ambition and
    follow the precedent set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)
    and its 300 member airlines approving a resolution for the global air transport
    industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Domestic lobbying. National governments
    have announced proposals for decarbonising aviation including the United
    Kingdom SAF mandate consultation, the ReFuelEU Aviation Initiative, and the
    United States SAF Grand Challenge. Let’s lobby our representatives to expeditiously
    pass concrete legislation that will create the regulatory certainty necessary
    to facilitate private sector investment.
  • In-sector solutions. SAF viability
    depends upon governments incentivising production and usage with appropriate
    financial stimulus. Let’s voice that government mandates are important – but
    insufficient to increase production at the scale required to meet net zero by
    2050 without fiscal support. Regulatory financing mechanisms include fiscal
    policy, tax credits and incentives, public-private partnerships and grants.
  • Out-of-sector solutions. Credible carbon
    credits provide a climate finance mechanism to mobilise public and private
    investment into nature-based solutions. Governments of 100 nations at COP26
    pledged to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, covering 85 per cent of the
    world’s forests. Carbon offsets are the only immediately available option for
    mitigating 100 per cent of business travel emissions. Let’s mobilise
    governments to invest in high-integrity carbon offsets and recognise that the
    airline industry is an ally in combating deforestation.

The challenges brought on by the pandemic have shown how our
industry can be resilient, resourceful and collaborative – when we galvanise around
a cause, we can spur government support and action. There is no greater threat
to our industry and our planet than climate change. But there are steps we can
take together – travel managers, TMCs, partners, suppliers and beyond – to
drive progress towards net zero at scale and speed.

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Travel and Tourism Industries Announce Net Zero Roadmap

As part of an effort to combat climate change, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) announced the launch of a Net Zero Roadmap for the travel and tourism industries.

The WTTC also revealed it would launch ground-breaking social and environmental research data to build on the organization’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR) and support the travel sector’s drive towards net zero by 2050.


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Officials from the WTTC said during its virtual ‘Net Zero Travel & Tourism – From Ambition to Action’ event that the initiative is being run with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and professional services and consulting experts, Accenture.

“The launch of our Net Zero Roadmap for the Travel & Tourism sector and development of sector wide data to measure our success are major steps to show how Travel & Tourism is playing its part in addressing climate change,” WTTC CEO Julia Simpson said.

“WTTC, alongside our partners and sponsors, looks forward to offering tangible and meaningful solutions to meet the climate change challenge,” Simpson continued. “As a sector, we are aware that not all industries can achieve such goals at the same time, which is why our Net Zero Roadmap will be so critical.”

The Net Zero Roadmap will include an overview of climate actions in Travel & Tourism and action frameworks for specific industries to help accelerate climate commitments and emissions reduction.

Through the research projects, WTTC will regularly monitor and update the climate action inventory, providing continuous updates until the Travel & Tourism sector’s targets are achieved.

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WTTC panel weighs in on climate change, net zero emissions: Travel Weekly

A panel of travel industry executives said today that carbon neutrality will only be achieved with government regulations and the realignment of investor interests.

During the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) annual meeting to address the environment as part of Climate Week NYC, Elie Maalouf, CEO of the Americas for IHG, said reaching net zero requires collaboration not just from science and private industry, but from government and energy producers.

“I don’t think any of us will get there without decarbonization of the grid,” he said. “We can be as efficient as possible in our properties but the energy that we acquire for those properties has to be heavily decarbonized around the world for us to be able to achieve this target.”

Gilda Perez-Alvarado, global CEO of JLL Hotels & Hospitality, said that hoteliers are not incentivized to make properties climate-friendly because of the “misalignment between the investment horizon and the realization of this benefit in the longer term.”

With most hotel owners looking at an investment horizon of three to five years, she said, “making monetary commitments to address climate change is very expensive and it eats into their returns …. That’s the reality.”

This is especially true in the U.S., Perez-Alvarado said, as opposed to in Europe, where people are generally more conscientious about the environment and where there is consumer demand for climate-friendly products. And, she said, “most of the investment community collectively has come together to think about this …. There is more education around the topic and most importantly, a lot of financing that is very favorable for building and business engaging in sustainable practices.”

Alex Zozaya, chairman of Apple Leisure Group, agreed and said that hotels need to be guided by regulation.

“We should end up doing the right thing not only because it’s the right thing, but because the law tells us to do that,” he said. “It should be illegal to do some things that have higher carbon emission and affect the planet, even if it’s more expensive.”

He said the main impediments are a lack of alignment around how to collectively address these issues, and not just in the travel industry.

“Not even within the G-20,” he said, adding that having the U.S. back in the Paris Accords will help.

Hopefully, he said, with more people caring about climate change, it will also mean more money for those companies.

“If not based on conscience, then based on the law and for the money,” he said. “It will become a better business if it’s more environmentally friendly.”

The “Net Zero Travel & Tourism: From Ambition to Action” panel was moderated by Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann.

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Frontier Expects to Net $266 Million from IPO

Frontier Group Holdings, parent of Frontier Airlines, has priced its shares for its initial public offering at $19. The offering, which on Thursday began trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol ULCC, consists of 30 million shares, including 15 million shares offered by Frontier and 15 million sold by the carrier’s existing stockholders. Frontier expects to net $266 million for the offering, which is expected to close April 6, as it will not receive any proceeds from the shares sold by existing shareholders.

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