As a consultant working nationally, travel is an inevitable and necessary part of my role. For all businesses the need to meet clients, customers, suppliers etc. face to face will involve travelling to see them at some point in time.
But the cost of travel to business can add up – in addition to the cost of travelling, think about the unproductive time spent travelling, stress and fatigue on employees, the environmental impact through greenhouse gas emissions and the reduced air quality in built up areas. It all adds up!
So how do you go about reducing the impact of business travel and what alternatives are there?
One way is to look at developing a sustainable business policy, which takes into account the financial, social and environmental impacts of business travel. You’ll need to measure the impacts of travel under these headings - you can’t manage what you don’t measure, but by measuring the cost of business trips, unproductive time of employees, links to illness through stress or fatigue, and converting fuel use to carbon emissions, you'll be able to set a baseline for your businesses travel.
Next, start to look at some alternatives. Here are some initiatives already used by businesses:
Alternative to travel – replacing face-to-face contact with video or teleconferencing, (Skype or Google Hangouts as an example).
Combine travel – reducing the frequency of business travel by combining meetings into
one trip and managing time better.
Efficient modes – encouraging and directing staff to more sustainable and efficient modes of travel. The car isn’t always the quickest, and by using trains, employees can use that time productively.
Greening the fleet – providing greener fleet for business travel (diesel – electric hybrids or lower emission vehicles).
Driving styles – providing advice and training on fuel-efficient driving techniques
Planning ahead – planning travel to avoid congested peak periods where possible.
Developing a policy which uses a combination of these initiatives and promotes a hierarchy of using the most sustainable options first, can lead to financial, social and environmental benefits which in turn can help improve your corporate image and gain competitive advantage.
Your policy can use a combination if the initiatives and should promote a hierarchy of preference – with the most sustainable options first.
Having a sustainable travel strategy can lead to financial, social and environmental benefits and could also have a positive impact on your brand. So, what’s stopping you?