Travel Managers Already Complaining of Emissions Data Overload

Skift grip

Multiple data sources seem to overwhelm some companies. But it’s probably a nice problem to have as organizations count down to net zero.

Matthew Parson

Corporate travel managers are struggling to “decipher” the growing amounts of carbon emissions data that suppliers and agencies are feeding them.

The depth and breadth of available data continues to expand. Airlines and hotels are under pressure to provide it, to help companies take stock of their emissions, under promises to become carbon neutral, or even carbon negative, by certain deadlines. Data is useful.

The travel industry says it is also working to become more transparent about the carbon dioxide and harmful greenhouse gases it produces.

Yet a company’s payload can become a deluge for corporate travel managers trying to decipher it.

“There’s a lot of information, maybe too much information,” said Sabah Kahoul, a former Microsoft travel manager who now advises companies on travel sourcing. “The agency will have its reporting, and the suppliers. It’s not very well structured and often not always available to the end user, the traveler.

Kahoul, who was speaking at a French Travel Management Association webinar this week, said travel managers have a responsibility to take the lead and help organize or structure data.

CWT recently moved to display carbon emissions data at the time of booking, a move widely hailed as a tactic that can help steer bookings towards greener options. But as data availability becomes more widespread, including the latest adoption of Travalyst data by Google and Skyscanner, there is a risk that some of it will get lost in translation.

Kahoul quoted a client who received carbon data from a supplier, who said that while he found it interesting to see how it was calculated, their own company did not calculate emissions the same way.

“If the data is not credible or cannot be assimilated, it is not useful,” added Kahoul, who is also vice president of the Association of Swiss Travel Management.

International sports retailer Decathlon aims to reduce its carbon footprint, and its travel manager said he is working with his agency, Egencia, on this. “We can see airline carbon emissions at the time of booking, which is good, and we can make comparisons. But I asked our business travel agency to make it more visible, more daring or with colors, because it is drowning in other information,” Philippe Vanasch said during the webinar.

However, it also makes sure to have access to basic travel information. “What interests me are the raw data, the kilometers covered, the class. Then we have the items that can be billed,” he said, meaning compensation could be done by Decathlon in addition to any supplier compensation. Emissions from hotels remain difficult to assess, he added, due to the fact that there are different methods of energy consumption.

“We also use the travel policy; if we can move people from planes to trains, we have a big impact,” he said.

Corporate travel agencies, meanwhile, will likely continue to step up their efforts to display carbon data and simplify it. A start-up agency, Coco+has placed sustainability at the heart of its concerns and has recently signed a three-year partnership with data company Travelogix to help it provide clearer reporting to its client companies. “Our plan from the beginning was to be a technology-driven travel provider, seeking out the best partners to help us realize our vision,” said Phil Brown, co-founder and COO. “We believe that data can tell a story. This encourages engagement and can ultimately help influence decision-making for the future.