16 July 2009 | Amon Cohen
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has recommended a major overhaul of the way government departments and agencies purchase and manage travel.
The UK government's independent watchdog made its comments after welcoming a review it commissioned from consultancy JMP, in association with OGC and Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Procurement. The report concluded there was "little evidence to suggest that government understands the total financial, social or environmental impacts of employee business travel and commuting".
It also suggested the public sector had worthy intentions regarding sustainable travel, but limited strategic vision and co-ordination. "There appears to be a policy vacuum with a lack of leadership and management of sustainable travel in government's own operations," the report said.
"As a result we found public sector officials and suppliers were unsure of government's sustainability policy or travel targets."
Departments were unable to provide information on the costs of travel, including administration and booking fees, as well as ticket and fuel costs. The JMP report added the government also failed to account for social and environmental repercussions.
The SDC made three recommendations in light of the report:
l A policy lead needs to be created or identified to drive a sustainable travel initiative throughout government.
l There should be significant improvements in the collection, management and reporting of data on not only business travel but also employee commuting and visitor travel.
l Each department and agency needs to establish a workplace travel plan to measure, manage and reduce all aspects of travel, for example by allowing more working from home.