SAP Concur survey: Sustainable travel a focus for 81 percent of Malaysian businesses

A new study by SAP Concur, a provider for integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions, has found that almost eight in 10 businesses (81%) across Malaysia say their companies are actively considering sustainability when managing corporate travel.

This widespread determination to be environmentally sustainable has been revealed in the SAP Concur APAC Sustainability Survey, which was conducted by Consulting Group – Asia Insight

It polled 648 senior and mid-level managers in corporate travel, finance, HR, procurement, and sustainability across Australia, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea. There were 107 respondents from Malaysia.

According to the Air Transport Action Group, aviation is responsible for 12% of CO2 emissions from all transport sources; and the World Resources Institute reported that business travel represents about 15% to 20% of global travel.

Malaysia commits to sustainable travel

Sustainability is a key theme within the 12th Malaysian Plan (12MP) with the government aiming for the country to become carbon-neutral as early as 2050. Announcements made thus far indicate that carbon pricing and carbon tax are set to be introduced in the future.

Hence, it is encouraging that many companies have gone beyond articulating sustainability principles to putting things into practice through their corporate travel policies, driven by their leaders.

About 50% of the respondents said their “senior leadership” is driving the sustainability agenda for corporate travel. This group comes ahead of “employees” (39%), “those responsible for sustainability initiatives” (48%), and “those responsible for corporate travel” (45%).

The survey also suggested organisations are investing in sustainability outcomes. About half of the Malaysian firms surveyed (50%) said they committed resources to championing sustainability. 

About 30% of the firms have someone who manages sustainability as part of their role, while 20% have dedicated personnel handling sustainability.

Dr Carl Jones, Managing Director, Southeast Asia at SAP Concur

“The research findings were a significant departure from the pre-pandemic days where Malaysian organisations were more concerned about travel cost savings than the environmental impact of their actions,” said Dr Carl Jones, Managing Director, Southeast Asia at SAP Concur.

“I believe that as flying time reduced, and emissions dropped during Covid-19 lock downs, organisations realised the possibilities of sustainable travel, and stakeholders became more motivated to take action. 

This shift of focus to bigger picture issues is a pivotal moment – not just for businesses to run better and be more profitable, but for more sustainable business practices to take root.” He added

Such business practices include the enablement of pre-trip approvals, and the provision of sustainable travel and accommodation options for employees’ selection.

Technology is key to overcoming implementation challenges

Despite that intention, businesses outlined a range of priorities for sustainable travel, based on their goals to:

  • Have positive brand awareness and reputation externally (73%)
  • Increase operational efficiency (71%)
  • Increase brand reputation (71%)

Other priorities include cutting costs (70%) and forging relationships with other sustainable organisations (70%).

But challenges remain. The greatest barrier to developing a more sustainable corporate travel program cited by respondents were:

  • A lack of employee engagement (23%)
  • A lack of professional tools to visualise the environmental impact of travel (20%)
  • A lack of personal knowledge/training on sustainability issues (16%) 

Many Malaysian organisations (67%) already realise they need to harness technology to become sustainable effectively. About 34% currently have software in place to support corporate travel and expense management, while 33% plan to acquire such software “very soon”. 

About 57% of Malaysian respondents said they have good or excellent business travel data for their software to analyse.

“It’s clear from the study that organisations are brimming with interest and intent to embrace sustainable travel,” said Dr. Jones. “For those that lack implementation know-how, technology could point a way forward – in terms of helping guide employees to sustainable itinerary options, tracking emissions, and ultimately formulating more efficient and sustainable travel strategies. Firms should examine how these tools can support their broader sustainability goals.”

SAP Concur solutions aim to enable sustainable travel management and assist organisations in making informed travel choices, track and manage results, and measurably demonstrate their actions’ impact to the environment. 

When complemented by SAP’s sustainability tools, organisations can be empowered to measure, manage, and mitigate emissions across their whole business.

Key findings from the study can be found in the whitepaper.

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