This Booking Holdings 2020 Sustainability Report provides an update on the progress of the company’s sustainability and corporate social responsibility activities from the 2020 fiscal year, unless specified otherwise. The purpose of this report is to communicate Booking Holdings’ approach to sustainability by addressing the most salient sustainability topics. This report was prepared in reference to a materiality analysis conducted in 2020, and in the spirit of the frameworks developed by the Global Reporting Initiative and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. This report contains information and data on different aspects of Booking Holdings’ business and the operations taking place across its primary consumer-facing brands: Booking.com, Priceline, Agoda, Rentalcars.com, KAYAK and OpenTable.
2020: Making Progress Towards a Better World
We began 2020 with expectations of continued global economic growth, initiatives to combat climate change and reduced inequality. No one imagined that we would lose 2.5 million lives in a global pandemic and our travel industry would be shut down in many parts of the world. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry has been transformational. We learned to live and work differently, and with this came a realization that we could change the status quo to a much greater degree. This is one of the few good things that has come out of the pandemic crisis because change is needed in so many areas.
As a travel business, we work in an industry that we believe makes the world better. When Mark Twain wrote The Innocents Abroad as a collection of his reflections on a five month trip to Europe and the Middle East just four years after the end of the U.S. Civil War, he said:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
We agree. As a business, we strive for sustainability to manifest in varying assets of our business operations – from understanding our role in protecting and improving the environment to addressing the issues of diversity and inclusion to making sure tourism is a force for good and not destructive to communities. In this report, we lay out the progress we made throughout 2020 on the sustainability front, and the changes we are committed to making, though we acknowledge that significant work lies ahead.
While the devastation the pandemic wrought on the travel industry caused us to postpone some of our sustainability projects in 2020, we are pleased that we were able to accomplish a number of key initiatives.
In 2020, we created a formal sustainability department within Booking Holdings. While there were already dedicated sustainability teams within our individual brands, the addition of this new department has helped to unify and support efforts across our entire organization. A coordinated approach to sustainability across all of our brands will help us achieve progress on numerous fronts.
As part of this synchronized process, one achievement that I am particularly proud of is Booking Holdings becoming operationally carbon-neutral in 2020. This is a significant milestone for our business, and one we were working towards even prior to the pandemic. We intend to remain carbon neutral in our operations moving forward, and look forward to making progress on our sustainability strategy, including diversity and inclusion and sustainable travel.
The unprecedented challenges of 2020 shined a spotlight on many issues affecting the world that need change. We hope that through this report, you see our efforts to help drive change. This is only just the beginning for us, but we are pleased we are moving forward to cultivate a healthier, more sustainable and more inclusive world for everyone.
The company’s mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. It had $35.4 billion in gross bookings (the total dollar value, generally inclusive of taxes and fees, of all travel services booked by the company’s customers, net of cancellations) in 2020. Headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, Booking Holdings has more than 300 offices around the globe employing more than 20,200 people.
Booking Holdings’ common stock trades on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the ticker BKNG.
In 2020, Booking Holdings performed its first sustainability materiality assessment to determine the most material environmental, social and governance topics related to the business. The sustainability topics that were shown as a priority by the assessment are:
Compliance, ethics, and integrity
Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations and conducting our business with integrity.
Data privacy and security
Protecting our customers’ data and ensuring the measures needed to prevent security breaches.
Diversity and inclusion
Promoting and supporting a diverse workforce that is inclusive for all employees.
Employee health and well-being
Fostering an environment that supports the physical and emotional health of our employees.
Engaging customers on sustainability
Engaging customers on sustainability and stimulating sustainable travel choices.
Environmental impact of offices and operations
Managing the environmental impact of our offices and operations, such as energy, water and waste.
Respecting and supporting human rights in our own operations and in our value chain.
Mitigating the negative effects of the tourism sector as a whole on the climate and overtourism, and amplifying the benefits of tourism.
Volunteering and charitable donations
Supporting local communities through corporate giving and employee volunteering.
Booking Holdings actively engages in constructive dialogue with stakeholders to learn which topics are most important to them and to help the company prioritize issues and take action where appropriate. These stakeholders include employees, customers, stockholders, business partners and suppliers, as well as society at large (governments, regulatory authorities, nongovernmental organizations, industry groups and multilateral organizations).
In 2020, Booking.com conducted research on sustainable travel. While 2020 was an unprecedented year for the travel industry and travelers, the research reveals travelers have the ambition and willingness to make more sustainable travel decisions in the future.
The percentage of travelers who think sustainable travel is important
of travelers believe that travel companies should offer more sustainable travel choices
of travelers were more determined to make sustainable choices in 2020 while traveling, compared to 2019
of travelers say that witnessing the environmental impact of tourism while on vacation has caused them to make more eco-friendly choices in their everyday lives
The added likelihood a traveler will choose an accommodation if it has implemented sustainable practices
of travelers feel annoyed when an accommodation stops them from being as sustainable as they would like to be
of travelers feel that it is harder to make sustainable choices on vacation than in their everyday lives
of travelers expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options in the future (once travel restrictions are lifted)
As a company, Booking Holdings believes that it has a responsibility to help ensure the world remains worth experiencing and to promote a more sustainable travel industry — culturally, environmentally, and socioeconomically. If done with respect for the world’s local communities, environments, and biodiversity, travel can broaden horizons, reduce barriers and bring people closer together.
To make sustainable travel choices easier for everyone, Booking Holdings is focusing its efforts on two key areas that ultimately rely on each other to succeed:
1. Supporting the company’s partners to become more sustainable, which in turn increases the number of sustainable travel offerings; and
2. Supporting the company’s customers to make sustainable choices.
As part of Booking Holdings’ mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, the company empowers customers to choose for themselves where they go and what they do once they get there. Booking Holdings recognizes its responsibility to educate and inform customers, and to do what it can to ensure that human rights are respected. Thus, the company is working to protect and advocate for human rights with its partners, customers and colleagues.
As an industry leader, Booking Holdings recognizes its responsibility — and potential — to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, beginning with improving its own environmental performance.
Reducing its carbon footprint is a crucial part of Booking Holdings taking responsibility for the environmental impact of its business.
In addition to increasing our emission reporting capabilities and strengthening plans to reduce our energy use and carbon emissions, Booking Holdings achieved carbon neutrality in 2020 and has committed to continuing to be carbon neutral in its operations from 2020 and beyond.
Booking Holdings values the unique contributions, realities and experiences of its people and communities and strives to be a positive influence for change. To that end, increasing diversity and inclusion efforts across the business has been a top priority.
Booking Holdings considers employee safety and well-being to be of the highest importance across the entire company. As lockdown measures forced business operations to move from offices to homes, all brands worked quickly to make sure employees were safe, healthy, and able to do their jobs under the quickly changing circumstances.
Despite the challenges of relocating the majority of operations from offices to homes, Booking Holdings’ brands remained committed to employee development.
Because of the mental health difficulties associated with the pandemic and working from home, Booking.com set up a four-part e-learning series to address mental, physical, emotional, and social health. KAYAK and OpenTable shared health and well-being resources with employees around the world and Priceline increased the number of employee pulse checks to gauge how its colleagues were fairing and how it could better support them. Agoda held its first Global Well-Being Month in 2020.
Booking Holdings works through its global privacy program to ensure that its customers are aware of their choices; that they can trust how the company collects, uses and protects personal information about them; and that the company complies with all applicable privacy laws and regulations. Because Booking Holdings operates in a wide variety of regions with different regulations, remaining compliant with privacy laws is a complex process of understanding and mitigating diverse risks on a global scale.
Across Booking Holdings’ brands, community engagement is always a priority. The extensive network of local offices gives these initiatives global reach, while employees and partners around the world ground them in their communities. Booking Holdings’ aim is to give back to the communities that are so integral to the brands’ success and to use the company’s global reach to promote and support initiatives that work for greater equality and sustainability.
Booking Holdings’ compliance and ethics policies are fundamentally rooted in how everyone treats each other as colleagues and as business partners. The purpose of these policies is to guide behavior, both in the company’s workforce and externally, such that Booking Holdings conduct all of its business with integrity and consistently prioritizes stakeholders’ interests.
Booking Holdings’ corporate governance practices and policies aim to ensure that our business conduct and performance align with the interests and the expectations of our stakeholders. In particular, we have adopted strong corporate governance practices designed to provide appropriate management oversight by our board of directors. There are three board committees: Audit, Compensation, and Nominating and Corporate Governance. Only independent directors serve on these committees. For more information about our corporate governance policies and practices, see the “For Investors” tab on Booking Holdings’ corporate website (www.bookingholdings.com) and our annual proxy statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.