The recent joint research carried out between McKinsey & Company and Skift Research contained some valuable ideas for improving sustainability in travel.

The report sets the scene by noting that global travel and tourism accounts for 8-11% of global emissions and that travel activity is expected to soar by 8% from 2016 to 2030.

It looks at ways that companies can decarbonise, especially in the business travel sector, which represents 30% of all travel spend. They note that morale and employee loyalty were 55% and 38% higher respectively in companies with strong environmental programs compared to those without.

How travel companies can close the ‘Say-Do’ gap

The research included a survey of recent travellers and executive interviews and includes several suggestions for how travel companies can close the ‘Say-Do’ gap – the difference between travellers’ stated intentions (“I want to reduce my carbon footprint”) and their actions.

  • Companies need to design booking platforms which will ‘nudge’ users to make more sustainable choices while making reservations. An excellent example of this is Skyscanner. Their website now includes the carbon cost of each flight and allows users to re-order flights by carbon footprint as well as cost.

  • Companies must offer sustainability-focused travel products more visibly within the booking journey. The report also suggests using behavioural science techniques to encourage travelers to make sustainable purchase decisions. For example, sharing the positive impact consumers can have on climate change is more likely to motivate them to make sustainable choices, rather than highlighting the negative impact
  • More recognised accreditation schemes should be introduced. Excellent examples of this within the snowsports industry are the French ‘Flocon Vert’ standard and the ‘Swisstainable’ campaign within Switzerland

  • Decarbonization information needs to be presented in more compelling ways, so that it engages with customers
  • Employers should be helping their staff to track their individual emissions, as well as great transparency to enable employees to measure emissions from corporate travel
  • Car rental companies should be encouraging clients to book for electric vehicles. Most currently do not even offer an electric option. Sixt are one of the better options for renting EVs.

sixt electric car hire

  • Credit card companies should partner with airlines, hotels and car hire providers to offer additional rewards when customers choose more sustainable options
  • Travel companies could create sustainability membership programs that provide discounts for sustainable travel options


Skift is an intelligence platform providing media, insights and marketing for the travel industry. McKinsey is a global management consulting firm.