Companies Earn Gold Medals for Sustainable Travel Programs

The GBTA Foundation, the education and research foundation of the Global Business Travel Association, has awarded "Gold Medals" to five companies for spearheading sustainability in the travel industry. As part of its Project ICARUS Gold Medal program, the GBTA Foundation is recognizing Enterprise Holdings, International Hotels Group (IHG), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Sabre Holdings, and Symantec for actively integrating sustainability efforts into their travel programs.

"Companies worldwide are building sustainability into their business travel programs, and we are thrilled to recognize these change agents that are actively driving and improving best practices on this key business travel issue," said Bernard Harrop, head of sustainability at Project ICARUS.

Created to recognize both buyers and suppliers that are driving sustainability within the travel industry, Project ICARUS is the first global travel management sustainability body. It is composed of representatives from travel buyers and suppliers, as well as academics and experts in the travel industry.

In keeping with its name, the GBTA Foundation addresses itself to companies whose operations are global in scale. The five Gold Medal companies posted revenues between $1.1 B (IHG) and $29.2 B (PwC) in 2011, although only two of the companies (IHG and Symantec) are publically traded. Because of the massive scale of their operations, these companies are able to affect the most impact with their travel programs.

IHG, which received a Supplier Gold Medal, acknowledged that in addition to their leadership in "innovation" and "industry collaboration," their "global approach to sustainability" impressed the Project ICARUS Global Advisory Board. "Corporate responsibility is central to the way we do business," wrote the company in an e-mail. "And because of our size and scale it makes sense to put responsible business at the heart of our CR programmes."

Similarly, Enterprise Holdings, the company that owns and operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car brands, operates the world's largest car rental network, permitting it to achieve massive scale with its sustainability programs.

"Enterprise Holdings is the world's largest purchaser of passenger vehicles, which puts us in a unique position to bring sustainable transportation options to our retail, airport and corporate customers," said Lee Broughton, head of corporate sustainability at Enterprise Holdings. "Through our one-of-a-kind local car-rental and car-sharing network, we are able to quickly and efficiently introduce millions of drivers to new automotive technology."

Enterprise Holdings is the first car company in the U.S. to offer the extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt. The company has also created the Institute for Renewable Fuels to support the research and development of next-generation biofuels from nonfood crops such as camelina, switchgrass and algae.

Symantec, the massive Silicon Valley firm with 2011 revenue of $6.19 B, has been at the forefront of sustainable travel buying since at least 2009, when the National Business Travel Association recognized the company for establishing a green employee commuting program and pursuing other sustainable travel initiatives.

"At Symantec, we are proud to build sustainability into our business travel program," stated Claire Blades, Manager Global Travel Operations at Symantec. "Over the next few years, we aim to achieve more streamlined demand management, communications and systemization of processes - all of which will assist us in achieving a best in class sustainability program." Symantec employed 17,663 people in 2011.

The GBTA Foundation recognized a further seven companies for achieving "Commitment Level," meaning that they have stated that they will pursue sustainable travel practices and work towards an ICARUS Gold Medal. These companies were Barclays PLC, The Carbon Accounting Company, Carlson Wagonlit, Dominion, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, Microsoft, Portman Travel, and United Airlines.

Image credit: Dhaval Jani