High-level event brings together almost 300 global experts, travel industry, and policy leaders to outline solutions to decarbonize business travel aligned with Paris Climate Goals.
An acknowledgment of urgency, value of collaboration, and the need for concrete action were the pervasive drivers of GBTA’s first Global Sustainability Summit yesterday which focused on decarbonizing business travel in alignment with the Paris Climate Goals – and the 27th United Nations Climate Summit (COP27) happening concurrently this week in Egypt.
Hosted by the Global Business Travel Association, the world’s largest association dedicated to the business travel sector, and its charitable arm, the GBTA Foundation, the one-day, high-level event at the Square – Brussels Meeting Center attracted nearly 300 global delegates including sustainability, travel industry, and policy leaders and experts to outline concrete solutions and map a climate action plan for sustainable global business travel.
“The level of engagement at this inaugural event shows that our industry and others recognize that a collective approach to sustainability is critical – and taking action is of the utmost importance,” said Delphine Millot, Senior Vice President, Sustainability, GBTA and Managing Director, GBTA Foundation.
“For GBTA, building a greener future means championing industry efforts, developing and scaling solutions and tools, and ultimately eliminating the carbon footprint of business travel so people and businesses can continue to connect.”
Highlights from the GBTA Sustainability Summit
The Summit provided a forum for essential connections, meaningful exchanges, and frank discussions for attendees. In his opening conversation, Walter Goetz, Head of Cabinet for Transport Commissioner, European Commission, outlined the role of business travel as a force for good and the importance of scaling the solutions to decarbonize transport instead of depressing demand.
Expectations from COP27 and what role business can play in leading the transformation was the premise of the opening panel. Caroline Strachan, Managing Partner, Festive Road, moderated the discussion of a cross-section of leaders: Paul Abbott, CEO, American Express Global Business Travel, and chair of the GBTA Foundation; MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee; Brune Poirson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Accor, and Former French Secretary of State for the Environment; and Denise Auclair, Corporate Travel Campaign Manager, Transport and Environment.
Breakout sessions led delegates through discussions of key topics in climate action such as how to navigate standards in green hospitality, bridging the gap in electromobility, encouraging a shift to rail, driving data accuracy and best practices in cutting emissions, and harnessing the role of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in getting to net zero for business travel by 2050.
The event culminated in a two-part think tank session where attendees turned ambition into action to design a climate action plan for the sector.
GBTA recently became the first business travel organization to join the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Travel and Tourism. To deliver on the commitment to drive action in the business travel sector to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050, GBTA has committed to releasing a Climate Action Plan outlining pathways for the industry. During the think tank session, members of the GBTA Sustainability Leadership Council guided participants in outlining an industry plan aligned with the five pathways of the Declaration: “Measure, Decarbonise, Regenerate, Collaborate, Finance.”
The event’s closing keynote speaker, Dr. Gabrielle Walker, Founder and Director of Valence Solutions and non-profit organization, Rethinking Removals, addressed “The Climate for Change” and what a low carbon future looks like for business travel. She emphasized the importance of reshaping finance and investing in innovative technologies to reduce emissions. Her call to action to the industry was to gradually replace traditional offsets by carbon removals to achieve net zero goals for business travel.
“Our goal is to empower global travel buyers and suppliers to place climate action at the forefront of their travel programs and operations to accelerate the industry’s green transition,” said Mark Cuschieri, GBTA Sustainability Leadership Council Chair, and GBTA Board of Directors Vice President. “The only way we’ll get to a greener future and achieve the Race to Net Zero is by getting there together as an industry. This Summit was an impactful next step, but there’s a lot of work ahead – and GBTA will be sharing more as the journey continues.”
GBTA’s Next Steps in Sustainability for 2023
Cuschieri concluded the Summit by outlining what GBTA will be prioritizing over the coming year to foster action and progress:
- Advocating with policymakers for investments in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and green technologies, development of the rail and charging infrastructure, better multimodality, and interoperability, as well as a single global standard to calculate emissions for business travel
- Harmonizing attributes to benchmark sustainability efforts by suppliers
- Extending partnerships with like-minded organizations and NGOs to multiply the impact of the collective work
- Establishing a climate action plan and pathway for the industry, with a roadmap and concrete steps on how to decarbonize business travel – building on the momentum and outcomes of the Summit’s think tank session
GBTA launched its Sustainability Program in 2021 to support climate action initiatives working in tandem with its members, the industry, and other essential stakeholders. Since then, GBTA has released a comprehensive, landmark study, “The State of Sustainability in the Global Business Travel Sector,” and hosted an inaugural Sustainability Pavilion at the 2022 GBTA Convention, as well as launched a revamped Sustainability Toolkit.
The association has also attracted expert advisors from across the industry as part of the Program’s Founding Partners, Sustainability Leadership Council, and Corporate Advisory Board. In addition to becoming a Glasgow Declaration signatory, GBTA has entered into a strategic partnership with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.