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Huge growth in Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR is a key acronym for the corporate big-wigs of today. We look at the rise in prominence of social responsibility


In just over two short years since the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) introduced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a major industry initiative, the number of travellers and companies embracing environmental awareness has more than doubled. A joint ACTE/KDS industrywide survey indicates that 59 percent of respondents companies now have CSR charter, and that the same percent of their travellers (59 percent) look to these charters in making environmentally sound travel decisions.

Speaking at a joint ACTE/KDS press conference at the Business Travel Show in London on 5 February 2008, Susan Gurley, ACTE Global Executive Director, said, “CSR is establishing new levels of what is environmentally acceptable to the global business travel industry. Ten years ago, this was the farthest thing from anyone’s mind. That fact that it has become core business component for 59 percent of this survey respondents clearly indicates that a growing majority of organizations have incorporated CSR into their business DNA.”

“This major industry shift clearly indicates companies and their travellers support Corporate Social Responsibility,” added Gurley, pointing out that in 2005, less than seven percent of the association’s membership supported CSR. “Those figures grew to 14 percent the following year and now up to 20 percent for 2007. CSR has quickly become a fundamental in the business travel process.”  

“Travellers are becoming increasingly eco-conscious and their travel booking behaviour is starting to impact corporate travel management,” said Stanislas Berteloot, marketing director of KDS. “With an overwhelming majority or corporations now using a self-booking tool (69 percent) the communication of sustainable travel guidelines is facilitated. Travel managers now need to think of using online tools to not only control costs, but also to travel smarter and greener.”

Looking beyond the travel program, survey respondents were also familiar with their respective company’s overall approach to CSR. This included neighborhood educational activities, emission offsetting, and carbon reduction at production plants. Fifty-one percent believed their company was doing the “right” thing, while
39 percent believed more could be done. (The remaining 10 percent was divided on their companys’ CSR performance, but rated it as insignificant.)

The joint survey revealed that cost reduction and traveller security were given an equally high priority for 2007. Yet corporate social responsibility climbed in priority to the top spot in for 29 percent of the respondents, up nine points from last year.
“This is a very good report card for the CSR concept,” said Gurley. “Travel departments are now increasingly tasked with reporting on travel related carbon emissions, showing a 15 percent increase over last year. This is significant as it shows CSR is beyond the tipping point with companies and will continue to grow as a corporate initiative.”
Among ACTE’s current CSR initiatives for 2008 are a white paper, which is being written in collaboration with the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, on Global Sustainable Travel, and a partnership with Verkehrsclub Deutschland, a major transport and environmental organization in Germany on the Green Business Travel Project, which will be used to create guidelines for environmentally friendly business travel processes and alternatives to business travel.

In addition, Gurley noted, “Interest in CSR as an educational must has continued to build at five of ACTE’s global education conferences in the past two years.”
At ACTE’s Global Education Conference in Washington, D.C., 18-20 May 2008, CSR will be the topic of two sessions: Green Taxes vs. Cap and Trade, and Light Green, Dark Green – What Color is Your Company?

The ACTE/KDS survey also drew a much larger field of participants this year, with the number of respondents growing by 127 percent (263). Participants hailed from Africa, Asia Canada, Continental Europe, Eastern and Central Europe, Ireland, Middle East, Northern Europe, South America, The United Kingdom, and the United States. According to Gurley, this increase indicates the significance the industry attaches to CRS and ACTE’s efforts to promote it. The diversity of respondent origin reflects ACTE’s global presence, which now extends to 82 countries.

Noted Gurley, “Through championing the CSR cause, ACTE has helped to move it to the C level at more and more companies. We’ve made tremendous strides in the promotion of sustainable travel, but there is still much work to be done; although 59 percent of companies have CSR charters, only 34 percent promote sustainable travel.”

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