Travelogix Presents…Glenn Thorsen

Travelogix Presents…Glenn Thorsen

Episode 15 of Travelogix Presents brings us to Glenn Thorsen, Global Sustainability Lead for FCM Consulting.

From his days working with sustainability specialists, Thrust Carbon, we have known of Glenn and his passion for data-driven greener decision-making across the business travel ecosystem.

We had the pleasure of taking some of his time in a recent interview, and we’re delighted to add Glenn to our growing bank of Travelogix Presents interviews.

Buckle up, grab a tea, and enjoy Ep.15 of Travelogix Presents, with Glenn Thorsen.

The Background

For those who aren’t aware, Glenn Thorsen likes disruptive and innovative tech. He tells me, “I started out in cloud communications for a company called RingCentral, and was part of their European Channel. After this, came a small number of strategic partnership roles for various tech/travel tech companies, including Geast, Airbnb (who acquired Gaest in 2019) and Bizly. In 2020, I landed at Thrust Carbon, as a founding employee and head of partnerships.”

Glenn’s experience with the Nordic & EU/North American market cross-over is unique. His career has tied back to travel at almost every point. Glenn tells me, “Everything that I’ve done has, in various remits, tied back to travel, not always exclusively within corporate travel, but circling around that as a focal point.”

He continues, “Having a country management and market launch perspective, has always meant I’ve been involved in a range of different areas globally.”

On the sustainability-specific front, Glenn tells us, It started with Gaest, and the meeting side of things. Sustainability in meetings and events has always been a stronger focal point for a proportion in the industry – possibly more than just standard travel because it feels a lot more tangible perhaps.”

Moving onto Thrust Carbon provided a “laser-like focus” on sustainability in travel before his recent move to FCM Consulting, where he holds the position of Global Sustainability Lead.

Glenn said, “We’re a brand within the Flight Centre Travel Group, and obviously very closely aligned with FCM Travel, the corporate brand. We sit as a solution, a service, alongside that.

“So, we don’t work exclusively with FCM clients, we work, with anyone throughout the industry, and I’m responsible for the sustainability vertical within the services we provide.

“We’re doing a lot of things across travel, though I tend to engage more specifically around things like sustainability strategies and optimisation analysis.

“There’s also a lot of focus around emissions and how one can optimise the sustainability focus of one’s programme, but always linking back to how that sits within the context of our travel solutions and how we provide support to, not just clients, but partners, businesses, and everyone in between.”

 FCM Consulting: A Consultative Approach

There are sustainability consultancies out in the marketplace, all actively playing their part in creeping the agenda forward when talking about greener practices. From innovative data-tracking solutions to policy management and compliance.

So, we wanted to learn more about how FCM Consulting is strategically pushing the envelope in the world of sustainability.

Glenn tells us, “We’re trying to do a few things a little differently (or alternatively to be on-brand!), and obviously, always linking back to travel.

“It can be anything; from the educational piece, through to how we support the travel team and build up the knowledge base of what their sustainability practice should/could look like within their travel programme. We want to encourage actionable efforts around creating a sustainability layer to a travel policy.”

He continues, “How do we look at contributions too? Whether that’s carbon removal alongside the travel we undertake or sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – how do we understand and engage on those fronts? Also, I think the most important area really is around the narrative, and this is something that I have tried to position very specifically within sustainability using the tagline, ‘Sustainability is more than just carbon’.”

Sustainability Practices: The Things to Consider

Reporting requirements around CO2 emissions is but one area. But you must consider the proven Initiatives that guide you when procuring a supplier.

Glenn tells us, “How does one book travel and how does that align with one’s policy? For some companies, it may be as blunt and as straightforward as just a net zero target; we have a number, and we need to keep within that, and it needs to be as accurate as possible. Ultimately – we need to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The question Glenn and his team ask is, “How do we do that?”

For other companies/clients, it can be very fluid. And that’s obviously looking into things like making better selections from a hotel perspective and how do we start to even track that?

back in 2019, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) pulled the sale of duty-free goods on their flights in an effort to reduce weight, and Finnair removed all printed newspapers and magazines in 2018. Many of the top airlines have now taken to digital in-flight magazines which can essentially offer way more content than ever before while reducing the need for unsustainable materials in-flight. Win-win.

Glenn said, “Operationally, there’s a positive reduction for the airline because there is less weight on board, but of course, we’re talking about a small amount.

“That said, you then start to think of how many flights that happen daily, across these carriers – that’s a lot of magazines that aren’t printed, which in turn, heightens that small impact now onto a larger scale.”

But this is something that the traveller or consumer doesn’t totally understand as yet. We don’t have a tracker that monitors this type of activity, as we do with CO2.

But as Glenn says, “When you start to tie all these pieces together, then it’s not that surprising to see the potential for a large-scale impact. Incremental changes from across travel verticals like hotels, and aviation, make huge dents in the reduction of CO2.”

There are a whole host of sustainable practices that Glenn is looking to highlight to corporates and customers all over the world. These larger, but also sometimes smaller changes, all play their part.

Glenn said, “That’s something that I’m focusing on. Trying to put a spotlight on all aspects of sustainability – from large impact change to small behaviour change. That’s definitely something that I think we here at FCM Consulting do differently.

Greener Hotel Choices

Along with the above, industry changes in targeted areas, we also need to consider our own choices when planning and booking travel.

FCM has started to help that process along by using many more metrics, badging, and icons at the time of booking – providing a huge amount of awareness and viability to the end user.

Glenn tells us, “In the past three to six months, we’ve already started to see some really strong trends with hotels that have multiple performance indicators for green operations.

“So, whether that’s EV charging on site for example – these properties are getting huge uptakes. From 20% to 40% increased booking rates than we perhaps would’ve seen in the past. And those are obviously very early stats but hugely encouraging, nonetheless.

“This isn’t something that you can start to build specific strategies around just yet, but they are strong indicators that there is a real drive to better decision-making when you have the right information.”

Honest Steps Forward

While small changes are crucial across all verticals that make up the business travel space, I wanted to learn more about what we needed to do collectively to make significant strides and leaps in the world of sustainability.

“Through transparency and honesty”, Glenn promptly answers.

He continues, “Unfortunately, greenwashing has been a constant in the world of sustainability – it’s a sort of greyness sadly, and credibility around sustainable campaigns and initiatives have been tarnished.

“That’s something that we’ve created for ourselves as an industry. Whether or not you want to say that it’s created deliberately, or sort of ignorantly.

We can’t look back at the pitfalls and mistakes of the past. Glenn believes there needs to be a “line drawn” with companies simply saying, “We want to do the right things, and as an industry, we can be more sustainable.”

He goes on to say, “If you can only do 1%, then be honest and transparent about that. You can’t make commitments that are disproportionate to the activity that you’re undertaking as a company, especially when we start looking at things like employee communications. It’s hard to lean into a campaign or ethos which has been miscommunicated, and then at some point down the line, realise that it’s not accurate, or even true.”

In this vein, the only runner-up will be our industry (well, ultimately the planet of course!)

Glenn agrees, “If buyers are being told that they’re making a green choice, but they then don’t have the data to actually harness that choice, ultimately, you’re not helping them.

World Changing Advancements

In our perfect future, a future where we reached the CO2 reduction targets in place, a question will be asked – what got us here?

The answer? Well, we quizzed Glenn about the advancements we need to see to truly reach the dizzy heights of a positive climate impact.

Glenn said, “Most of the advancements are still at the early stages, meaning big change will be incremental.

“I believe electric aviation has been shot down very quickly because right now, we don’t have the sort of technological inputs and infrastructure to make it viable for long-haul flights. Personally, I don’t think that’s as big a challenge as we perhaps think it is.”

If you look at the way the short-haul and domestic flight traffic is now structured, like France’s mandate ban of domestic flights of under two hours, or Norway’s policy which states that by 2030, only flights using electric flights will be the consumer option going forward with a total transition to electric flights before 2040, Glenn thinks that “there’s a huge opportunity for the emerging companies that are producing electric plane fleets”.

Glenn said, “There’s a lot of domestic and EU travel that could be serviced, very feasibly, from short electric flights. So, I think there’s actually a bigger opportunity there than many of us realise purely because of its scale.”

It Runs in the Family

Having a mentor in the industry you work in is handy. But having your father as that mentor might be the best of both worlds.

Johnny Thorsen is a well-known and experienced figure in the travel space. Currently, he is the VP of Strategy and Partnerships for Spotnana.

Has Johnny impacted Glenn in his career to date? (What do you think!)

Glenn said, “There’s no reason to pretend otherwise or shy away from it. I think the best way to paint the picture is that he almost serves as my matrix, and plugging into it to download his valuable industry experience is a rarity most people don’t have. So, I’m incredibly fortunate and grateful in that regard.”

He continues, “Given the time that he’s been around and the projects he’s undertaken, it’s kind of like a shortcut to an additional 30 years of experience for me! Not to mention guidance on the corporate side of the industry, and how that works typically.

“Also, just having him as a sounding board when trying to validate ideas and concepts has been hugely beneficial.

I like speaking with people and networking who after a while, ask – “are you any relation to Johnny Thorsen?”. It’s just lovely to hear from people who have connected with Dad in the past and had a really positive interaction.”