Guest Post: My Sustainability Story


In my previous sustainability series posts on the blog here, I have talked about what sustainability means, why taking a sustainable approach to business travel works and how to build a sustainable travel program, among other topics. Today, I want to turn the blog over to the head of GBTA’s Sustainability Committee to share the first in a series of real life examples of integrating sustainability into travel programs.

My Sustainability Story
By Joanne McNellis Coelho

I am Joanne McNellis Coelho, Senior Manager, Global Travel for Wyndham Worldwide, and I would like to tell ‘My Sustainability Story.’

Wyndham Worldwide is one of the world’s largest hospitality companies in the world, with over 100,000 locations in nearly 100 countries. My role as travel manager is to manage a multi-national travel program for our associates around the world.

Sustainability is not new for Wyndham Worldwide. As one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, we have always focused on implementing sustainability best practices at our hotels, vacation rental properties and timeshare properties, by engaging our supply chain, staff and customers. Early on, Wyndham had committed to reducing its operational carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020, and recently announced that we had already reached that goal – six years ahead of schedule!

Given the nature of our business, the carbon footprint from our internal business travel program is fairly low in comparison to other companies – less than 5 percent of the total. While reducing our carbon footprint in this area isn’t high on our radar, our business travel’s contribution is still very important. I believe that travel managers should align their goals with the overall goals of the company beyond the typical savings and cost avoidance initiatives.

But where do we start?

Back in 2010, our Sustainability team began calculating our business travel emissions. At that time, I hadn’t heard of carbon emissions or even knew where they came from. My colleague in the Sustainability group was nice enough to give me a crash course in emissions, and from that day forward we brainstormed how we could work together to reduce our business travel footprint. I then began conversations with our preferred partners to find out what their companies were doing to learn from their success.

The most important advice I received was to start slowly, engage supply partners and get invloved!

This is great advice because it works!

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It doesn’t mean go slow – it means ensure you plan carefully, engage people and communicate effectively.

Once I had support from my team, we engaged key supply partners. Our preferred suppliers are the source of the carbon emissions data and it is them who need to support us by finding ways to help reduce the environmental impact.

Our key suppliers were very supportive and willing to help. In fact, most had great programs already in place, so I decided to go after the easiest carbon reduction opportunities first. The ‘low hanging fruit’ as they say! It was my responsibility to get involved, so I immediately started learning as much as I could about the topic and used industry contacts as resources.

 

A Car Rental Carbon Offset Program Was Born!  

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While we had been collecting emissions data since 2010, it wasn’t enough. We implemented the ‘Travel Smarter’ principles in order to reduce carbon emissions at the source. This involved recommending smaller vehicle rentals and the use of hybrid vehicles, resulting in some cost savings. But we wanted more. Our car rental partner offered a program where we could offset 100% of our business car rental emissions, so needless to say we took them up on it!

The final part of the puzzle was to engage company employees.

We started by creating an awareness campaign using our booking tool and quarterly newsletter to sprinkle in elements of sustainability into the travel program. This was no different than any other company program, except we needed to ensure that it was interesting, included compelling information encouraging employees to participate and offered an element of fun!

How have we done and what lessons did we learn? 

I would say we are off to a very good start. The biggest lesson I have learned is that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to incorporating sustainability practices into a corporate travel program. My peers that have had success in this space have all taken different paths and have experienced success within their respective organizations.

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Delivering a carbon reduction and financial return on investment is a great place to start for any business!!

In July 2015 it was announced that Wyndham Worldwide is one of the launch partners of United Airlines’ Carbon offset program, Carbon Choice. We are excited to be a part of this innovative program and look forward to seeing the results.

The best part of the story is that it has just begun!

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