Q&A: Michael Riegel on Sustainable Business Travel

The climate crisis dominated the news cycles in 2022, with record highs and lows and extreme weather systems battering communities worldwide. So, it’s not surprising then that targets are being set in boardrooms across the globe to reduce business emissions and align businesses with targets set at COP27.

But, for companies that need to travel internationally, it can be harder to achieve sustainable business travel without significantly affecting the cost.

We spoke to Michael Riegel, General Manager of Trip Actions, Europe, to see what they’re doing to help businesses reduce their carbon emissions and hit their sustainability targets.

MIchael Riegel talks to us about sustainable business travel
Michael Riegel – TripActions General Manager, Europe | © TripActions

Tell us about TripActions

TripActions combines a technology-first corporate travel platform with an all-in-one expense management suite to provide an end-to-end travel, corporate card, and expense management solution. Redefining the business travel and expense experience, TripActions is fast becoming the default for corporate travel, providing businesses with the modern, user-friendly technology they need.

Trusted by more than 8,000 companies globally, TripActions empowers organisations with real-time data to make business decisions and provides flexible travel and expense management tools that enable teams to adapt to changing market conditions, keep travelling employees safe, control costs, and save money.

TripActions has a cutting-edge sustainability offering aimed at enabling organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. It includes the company’s industry-first partnership to enable customers to bulk purchase Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and its carbon emission budgeting tool that provides real-time tracking of carbon emissions.

Why has TripActions decided to focus on sustainable business travel?

At TripActions, we believe in the importance of fostering in-person connections that make life and work productive, rich, and pleasurable. But we know how important it is to protect the planet in the process. The global transportation industry is responsible for roughly 3% of all greenhouse gases. Given that business travel contributes to this, companies worldwide are committing to report and reduce their environmental impact on a quarterly and annual basis.

TripActions’ Carbon Impact Management programme gives businesses the visibility and controls they need to help put them in the driving seat of their Net Zero targets. For example, teams can create a carbon emission budget and track it to ensure travel emissions are controlled, managed, and reported. They can also opt-in to receive carbon impact data at the corporate and traveller level to address increasing climate concerns. With the Carbon Offset Assistance tool, TripActionsalso gives companies a chance to offset their carbon footprint through partnerships with organisations that support each company’s ongoing sustainability initiatives.

Through its partnership with Neste, the world’s leading producer of SAF, TripActions and Reed & Mackay, which have always been at the forefront of corporate travel sustainability, are the world’s first corporate travel providers to enable customers to purchase SAF directly from the producer and supply it to the airlines. The partnership will further corporate sustainability efforts, including the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) guidance for the aviation sector that many customers of TripActions follow. SBTi principles recognize SAF (rather than offsetting) as a solution for corporate customers to meet emissions targets for business travel.

boarding pass in a passport being held along with luggage in an airport
TripActions has seen a huge increase in demand from businesses across Europe looking for sustainable travel solutions. | © Joshua Woroniecki on Pixabay

What feedback have you had about this from existing customers?

Over the course of 2022, TripActions has seen a huge increase in demand from businesses across Europe looking for sustainable travel solutions to support the return to widespread business travel, with 80% of TripActions travellers surveyed noting they are concerned about the impact of business travel on the environment.

From household brands, such as Unilever and Heineken, to small businesses and startups like Leapwork and Skydio, businesses are focused on tracking progress to Net Zero targets and using the latest technology to do so. Take Unilever, for example; one of its main goals is around increasing sustainability efforts to achieve Net Zero emissions. A key driver in the company’s choice to go with TripActions was the ability to make their users aware of the CO2 impact of their travel to help them make purposeful decisions.

Can you tell me more about what you’ve heard from European businesses on travel?

Alongside sustainable travel becoming even more of a priority, we repeatedly hear about travel’s cultural, financial, and emotional benefits for businesses. In fact, a recent survey of road warriors from TripActions showed that while sales-driven meetings remain the majority of business travel, representing approximately 33% of business travel use cases, team on-site and office visits aren’t too far behind at 26%. When asked what the biggest benefit of travel was to their respective businesses, 65% of road warriors called out relationship-building, whether with teammates or with customers. We have also continued to see a huge uptick in Team Travel bookings, with a whopping 73% increase in August compared to July.

How do you think business Net Zero targets will affect travel in the future?

With the travel industry accounting for 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions, Net Zero targets are having a huge and positive impact on the travel industry. With an increasingly eco-conscious population, many are aware of how their travel habits impact the environment, with 81% believing sustainable tourism is important worldwide.

Many are questioning their travelling habits and attempting to live more eco-friendly lifestyles. That’s why we’ve focused in our Carbon Impact Programme on offering people a way to travel more responsibly, educating our customers on their carbon impact as well as providing the latest innovations and tools to help businesses meet their sustainability goals – For example, giving travellers the ability directly compare the emissions of train vs plane travel.

baggage in airport waiting area
In 2023, bleisure travel will continue to boom | © Stela Di on Pixabay

How has tech helped the company thrive?

Technology is integral to our success. Our platform relies on data science to deliver our customers the best experience in business travel and expense management. We combine our unique, best-in-class modern technology with global travel agency support to provide personalised services, ensuring that the needs of every individual are taken care of, whether it’s end-to-end services for events or organising team travel.

Since our start, we’ve focused on revolutionising business travel by automating, personalising and professionalising the user experience. During the pandemic, with business travel at a standstill, we took this focus to expense management, doubling down on payment innovation with our card-led automated expense management platform, TripActions Liquid.

That approach to technology has been a huge driver in the growth of our business. TripActions recently raised $300m in Series G financing at a post-money valuation of $9.2 billion. This is a testament to not only the strength of TripActions’ business model but also the value we bring to companies looking to use our technology to increase savings and enable responsible spending.

What predictions have you made for the coming year of travel?

Corporate travel is already back — TripActions data shows a nearly 6x year-over-year increase in business travel bookings with a start date between September 1 and November 19, 2022, compared to an equivalent booking window and trip start date last year. We firmly believe 2023 will be the year of in-person collaboration as companies increasingly depend on travel to maintain a cohesive company culture.

In 2023, bleisure travel — the combination of business and leisure travel — will also continue to boom. Since the onset of the pandemic, at TripActions, we’ve seen a marked shift in business trips that contain a weekend. In 2019, 31% of business trips included a weekend. Now, that share has grown to 35% — an increase of 4 percentage points. We’re also seeing 2023 shape up to be another big year for personal travel, with future leisure travel searches on TripActions up 93% year-over-year. The destinations recording the biggest increases in the search were those that had previously limited international arrivals — especially in Asia, South Asia, and Oceania.

Has your business used TripActions? What do you think about their sustainability mission? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Megan Carmichael
Megan Carmichael
Web Editor - After a long stint in Tech, Megan took her leave and followed a passion of writing! Megan started writing a blog in 2017, on and off, fully committing in 2020 when there was nothing else to do during the lockdown. Since then she has published in Outdoor Magazines, written website content for online businesses and wrote feature pieces on Travel, Lifestyle, Freelancing and more.