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Event recap—Taking the Green Route: the Sustainable Traveller

January 6, 2020 / Europe

The Uber Headquarters in Amsterdam recently hosted an exclusive business breakfast, where we invited four speakers to share insights on being greener in business travel. Our guests left inspired and full of actionable ideas on how to become a more sustainable traveller. We’re excited to share some highlights from the event.

Quick stats from our sustainable traveller event

  • 55 attendees
  • 4 inspiring talks
  • 1 delicious breakfast buffet
  • A great opportunity to network with industry professionals
Event recap—Taking the Green Route: the Sustainable Traveller

Sustainable business travel: is it just an impossible dream?

Marjan Verbeek, Strategic Partnership Manager, Climate Neutral Group

Marjan Verbeek presenting at the event Taking the Green Route: the Sustainable Traveller

Marjan opened her presentation with a stark image: a pack of dogs in Greenland, pulling a sledge across melting ice sheets. With heatwaves, record-breaking weather and heavy storms, Marjan reminded us that we’re all experiencing the effects of climate change—and the need to be a more sustainable traveller is becoming more important than ever. Flying is a heavy part of our carbon footprint, but travelling brings us a lot economically, business-wise and personally. Therefore it’s not realistic to expect that people will fly less.

“In general, each company would more or less gain 10 percent of their CO2 emissions if they do more videoconferencing.”

Marjan Verbeek, Strategic Partnership Manager, Climate Neutral Group

What can we do then? Travellers and companies are searching for more sustainable options, there’s movement in policy frameworks, and technological solutions such as electric planes and biofuels are being developed. Everyone is involved in taking a step forward. Marjan also outlined more immediate actions such as videoconferencing, choosing alternative transportation methods and cutting back on business class seats. She addressed the topic of CO2 offsetting, acknowledging that although it’s not the end solution, it at least allows people to take responsibility and support the right projects. But first, we need to make other changes in our behaviour.

Breaking habits to achieve a sustainable mindset

Sacha Handgraaf, Founder, Sustainable Inspiration

Sacha Handgraaf presenting at the event Taking the Green Route: the Sustainable Traveller

Sacha believes that to create a more sustainable society, we need a cultural mindset shift. Culture is based on a set of paradigms—a set of ideas of how we see the world. They often lead to unconscious habits that we might not even be aware of or habits that seem so normal because everybody does it. This can make sustainability harder to achieve. Sacha gave a personal example of how, after growing up in the countryside of the Netherlands where many people get their driver’s licence as soon as possible, she almost gave in to the pressure to buy a car. But then she took a step back from this way of thinking and decided to make more sustainable choices.

“It’s really good to be more aware if you want to make more sustainable choices, because all these habits and ideas have an impact on what we’re doing. And so they have an impact on the world.”

Sacha Handgraaf, Founder, Sustainable Inspiration

How difficult is it to change these paradigms when you’re part of a company? When it comes to travel, one of our main priorities is getting from A to B. Comfort and price may also be key factors. But sustainability is also becoming more and more important. Sacha urged everyone to look critically at their unconscious and conscious habits and link them with new core values. Changing behaviours and mindsets is very personal, so it’s important to start a dialogue within your organisation about what your core values are. Unconscious habits are embedded in our culture and daily choices. But by looking critically at our habits and core values, we can begin to make more sustainable choices. 

From fleet to sustainable mobility management

Pim de Weerd—Global Commodity Manager Mobility, Philips

Pim de Weerd at the event Taking the Green Route: the Sustainable Traveller

Pim introduced the strategy to move from fleet to mobility at Philips at the end of 2016. By January 2017, it was official. How did Pim get full management buy-in in such a short amount of time? He embedded innovation and sustainability into his strategy—two things that really matter at Philips. The company strives to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation, with a goal to improve the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2030. Philips also sees sustainability as a driver for economic growth. They have a plan in place to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

“Nowadays with connected, shared, electric, and autonomous cars, there’s a lot of innovation and a lot of new sustainable mobility solutions available.”

Pim de Weerd, Global Commodity Manager Mobility, Philips

Pim shared his tips on how to move to sustainable mobility management. The first step is to team up with key stakeholders, such as HR, finance and sustainability. Without top management support, it’s very difficult to get a budget and resources. Then, start local—mobility has a different set-up in each country so it’s simply too hard to roll out on a regional or global scale. A pilot stage is key for getting insights on what works well, what needs improvement and what’s valued by your people. Finally, starting a project with assigned resources and experts across different business functions—including sustainability—will allow you to get your framework in place.

Summing up

Want to see the speakers in action? Here’s an aftermovie of the event. We hope it inspires you to be a more sustainable traveller.

If you want more ideas on how to be more sustainable, here are 9 tips for greener business travel.