Travel buyers told to think green

9 May 2006
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10 May 2006 | Amon Cohen

Travel purchasers are being urged by their boards to introduce environmental considerations into their purchasing strategies, the annual Institute of Travel Management (ITM) conference in Manchester was told last week.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is rising rapidly up the corporate agenda, with environmental sustainability one of the key issues under consideration. When businesses assess their carbon dioxide emissions, they discover that travel is one of the largest sources - often the largest, especially for service companies, according to Tony Pilcher, head of global business travel management at HSBC bank.

HSBC and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) told the conference that environmental issues are affecting their travel programmes in numerous ways. These include measuring air mileage and the resulting CO² emissions, evaluating suppliers for their environmental impact and changing policy. One delegate told she is currently telling travellers that they must use rail in preference to air where feasible.

HSBC and PwC both contribute to schemes that offset carbon emissions through, for example, investment in alternative power sources. But Pilcher warned that this was not enough. "Offsets are not getting to the heart of what our responsibility is… we have a responsibility to reduce business travel," he said.

This means businesses must analyse which trips remain essential and which can be eliminated. Keith Burgess, company secretary and legal counsel for the travel management company HRG, pointed the way. He said HRG carried out analysis for the Scandinavian company Skanska and discovered that 90 per cent of its travel was for meetings, of which 50 per cent were internal. Burgess suggested trips for internal meetings are the most likely candidates for elimination.


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