Travel 18th February 2021 - 5 min read

2021 is all about Safety, Sustainability and Spend

By Joni Lindes

It is no doubt that 2020 was a tumultuous year for travel managers, but what is in store for 2021? After discussions with our partners, several recurring themes have emerged. It seems many travel managers have three major priorities this year – the three S’s – safety, sustainability and spend.


In the wake of Covid-19, even smaller companies with no formal travel management team or suppliers are having to take duty of care and safety much more seriously than before. The range of different travel restrictions in place for different countries coupled with changes in airline schedules and the opportunity for any country to close borders at a moment’s notice leaves a strong risk component for every business trip, even regional or domestic ones.


Vaccines alone will not be an immediate panacea for these issues. Even if a country’s vaccination programme is successful, there will still be many rules and requirements for international travel. Recently, governments and developers around the world are exploring how certificates and passports could help to reopen economies by identifying those protected against COVID-19. One of which being a “health passport” or “digital health passport” which allows travellers to present digitally authenticated and secure medical records to border authorities and government administrations. There are already a few health passports put into play: one being the CommonPass launched by the CommonTrust Network and first used by United Airlines. Another one is the AOKpass developed by the International Chamber of Commerce and currently used between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. Another solution is the IATA Travel Pass which is an open-sourced solution allowing travellers to access information on the rules and regulations for each country while also holding information on vaccines and test results for the traveller to present to authorities. The IATA Pass app should be available in Android and IOS devices in March 2021.

There promises to be more applications and passes to follow and each country will have different regulations.

Pre-trip approval will therefore be much more complicated. Travellers will need to prove their trips are worth the risk. Permissible travel will become the new norm.

A vital component in managing these processes is data and keeping yourself and others informed. Ensure that you have a pre-trip data feed to capture any last-minute changes before the trip takes place. The next most important component is communication. Communicate this data automatically to Security and Risk Management teams so that any risky booking is flagged and action can be taken as soon as possible.


Promoting sustainability is becoming a major goal for all departments in Fortune 500 companies and according to BTN’s What to Watch 2021, travel suppliers are feeling the pressure to improve their sustainability standards.


According to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, companies around the world made $31 trillion in sustainable investments by the beginning of 2019. A BCG Consulting study that same year looked at the valuations of companies in three important industries—chemicals, energy, and mining—and cross-referenced carbon emissions to find that businesses with lower carbon emissions had valuations as much as 13% higher than companies reporting higher emissions (all else being equal). As always, data drives change, and these metrics are impacting executive decision-making.

2020 was therefore the year of the ‘nett-zero by 2050 commitment’ with many companies such as Facebook, General Mills, Mercedes-Benz, Shell and BP promising to reduce emissions to nett-zero.

2021 promises to see these plans put into action.

“[2021] is a very important year, when it comes to some of these possibilities moving from aspiration to, all right: what are the physics? How are we going to do this? How are we going to reduce emissions?” says Dan Klein, Head of Energy Pathways at S&P Global Platts, in New York.

With aviation contributing to 2% of the world’s emissions in 2019, making travel operations more sustainable will no doubt play a role. The current pause in travel has motivated many travel managers to rethink and re-strategize their programmes and include sustainability as an important strategic goal. Travel managers need to introduce targets for cutting down on carbon emissions, promote sustainable practices, pick sustainable suppliers while also finding a way to report on all of it.


Spend has always been a primary concern for travel managers yet 2021 will see the type of spend measured shift drastically.

Travel spend will still need to be measured yet, with a drop of over 78% in travel volume in 2020, companies will not be as focused on budgeting for it, controlling it or cutting down on it. Instead, companies are generating a new kind of expenditure brought about by a largely remote workforce.

Employees working from home allow for increased opportunities of employee generated spend. While travel has always dealt with purchasing decisions made by employees, other company departments will need to shift processes to manage a more complicated procurement process, especially in companies like Spotify, Twitter, Paypal, Gartner and Salesforce, who have made remote working permanent.

For example, if companies are paying for employee home internet charges, they may want to introduce specific network providers for company use in order to ensure network stability and security while also getting a corporate discount. This will need a policy for any employee wanting to claim their home’s internet as a company expense.

With travel’s experience in this endeavour, they could be intrinsically valuable to their organisation and advise on managing so much more than travel spend. They may also have to examine looking at travel spend more holistically and breaking down silos between travel and expense.

If you are not yet able to access expense data and view employee spend holistically, the PredictX Employee Spend Management module allows travel managers to access transactions in the expense feed and match them to relevant trips.

Essential to optimizing any of the three Ss (Safety, Sustainability and Spend) is the data to measure progress. Whether it is Sustainability reporting, pre-trip data or a more holistic approach to viewing spend, our travel team can help you with the right data strategy to support your goals. Book a free consultation to find out more.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
5 min read

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