However, 12 percent of buyers are doing things differently. They say supplier alignment on sustainability goals significantly factors into partner selection.
To make that difference, said Andrew Perolls, CEO of sustainable travel consultancy Greengage, “buying decisions need to balance convenience, cost and CO2.” But companies need to show real intent to convert this neatly alliterative slogan into practice. For Julia Fidler, senior sustainability program manager for procurement at Microsoft, that means upending traditional procurement practice and operating a double bottom line: one for financial performance and a second for environmental impact.
“We’ve delivered a signal by sharing that we’re willing to pay extra for sustainable fuel,” said Fidler. “Our ability to say we have looked at this beyond the normal procurement perspective has had a ripple effect. The interest from our peers and suppliers has been fantastic.”
Making Lower-Carbon Buying Choices
“Before choosing between two airlines, we have to think: ‘do we need to travel?’” said Horst Bayer, founder of TravelHorst Sustainable Business Travel Consulting. “If we decide it is necessary to travel, then yes, we should look at whether one is more environmentally friendly than another.”
Factors which inform this determination are complex. They include aircraft type, engine choice, load factor, fuel selection, route and altitude flown. According to Cait Hewitt, deputy director of the UK-based Aviation Environment Foundation, which campaigns on the impact of aviation on people and the environment, the differences can be huge. “The work most helpful to us is done by The International Council on Clean Transportation, which suggests there can be a difference of 60 percent on a transatlantic flight from one airline to another,” she says.
Pressurizing Suppliers to Go Greener
Avery finds that “getting emissions data from airlines is a challenge.” He presses them for average emissions per passenger per route but it is rarely forthcoming.
Hewitt encourages buyers to keep pestering. “There is almost an immediate response from carriers that it’s too complicated,” she said, “but it would be helpful if travel managers put pressure on airlines to give them the data to make better decisions. It applies pressure on them to upgrade their fleets earlier than they would do purely for financial reasons.”
That’s only one way in which corporate customers can influence their suppliers. Hewitt believes clients should set out the environmental standards they expect of suppliers, for example by urging airlines not to resist being included in global net zero commitments.