Travel planning: How to be effective and where to start

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Drafting an effective travel policy, and setting up a plan to make it work well within your organisation, can be a challenging first task to support sustainable travel in your business. Before Covid-19, many businesses didn’t think sustainable travel was something they could significantly influence. With growing awareness around the environmental impacts of transport – such as air pollution and carbon emissions – people are wondering how they can go about this challenging task whilst also meeting business-critical needs and following the social distancing advice recommended by national health advice. Here, we share some top tips and key considerations for getting started on a travel plan or policy.

The purpose of a travel plan

A travel plan is developed to help you manage transport for your business and also encourage staff to make informed and more sustainable choices for their travel arrangements. By understanding staff needs and limitations, you can introduce guidance, support and incentives that makes the process of change easier for staff or those making travel decisions – from booking transport arrangements to investing in your fleet or infrastructure.

Your travel plan should not be a tick-box exercise – it should be a tool for supporting continual improvement against the negative environmental, social, and financial impacts of travel as a result of your business needs. Determine what your high-level objectives for sustainable transport are, such as reducing your carbon footprint, improving the health and well-being of your staff, or simply managing your travel requirements in a more consistent and efficient manner.

Your travel plan should support

  • Business essential travel – Whether you must carry out site visits for clients, patients, or others, it’s about understanding what essential travel is necessary and prioritising how staff will travel.
  • Staff commuting – Staff commuting needs, and how you can support them on sustainable transport options, may be a vital way you can reduce indirect carbon emissions and show stakeholders your support for reduced travel or more sustainable ways of getting around.
  • Customer or visitor travel – Thinking about how your visitors travel to see you and how you accommodate their sustainable transport choices.
  • Travel procurement – From decisions on whether to book flights or rail journeys, through to the location of booked accommodation. Those purchasing any arrangements related to travel should know how their decision influences your environmental impact, including hotels and their location from venues, public transport, or other services. Those making decisions on changes to your fleet or facilities should also understand how the travel plan or policy supports their sustainable choices.

 

Who needs to know about the travel plan and who should be involved?

This should be clearly outlined in the scope of your travel plan. Your travel policy should include all users to whom the plan will apply, including staff, customers, or other site users.

Bring together your green group and discuss what the travel needs of the business are. What essential travel is needed? What do staff want and what are the existing barriers to more sustainable travel? We recommend carrying out a travel survey for all staff as a good starting point for engagement on sustainable travel.*

What should my travel plan include?

If your organisation owns any fleet vehicles, you should be looking at how to make your fleet more sustainable. These should be managed in alignment with your iiE Environmental Management System.

Your plan should include:

  • Any vehicles under direct management control (company cars, fleet, or other vehicles). Any staff using these resources should have some policy guidance and basic training on general usage, vehicle maintenance, and fuel-efficient driving.
  • Guidance for staff using their own vehicles for business travel. There should be advice or incentives to support reduced mileage (use of travel hierarchy) and fuel efficiency.
  • Training provision: outline your company expectations for how staff will manage their business travel within their role. Include any available guidance such as online training.
  • Identify what transport infrastructure or shared resources you provide as a business. This may include cycle storage, car sharing bays, EV charge points, and pool cars – you may even include tyre pumps or other safety and fuel efficiency equipment available for staff use. You may also consider providing route maps and highlighting public transport stops nearest to you and publishing this on your website.

 

Your travel policy should clearly link to any sustainable transport target or objective you may have identified in your environmental or sustainability policy, such as fuel consumption or carbon reduction targets. Overall, the travel plan will be a document that evolves over time, like your environmental policy, and you will be working towards making improvements to its structure and content each year.

*iiE members can access travel surveys and more in-depth guidance such as feedback on travel planning as part of their membership.