Evaluating and minimising your global mobility program’s environmental footprint – a comprehensive guide.
Nov 22, 2023
Evaluating the Environmental Impact of Your Company’s Global Mobility Program
How do we balance the movement of people around the world – and the resulting carbon emissions from air travel and relocation – with corporate environmental responsibility goals? It’s a question globally mobile businesses are asking the world over.
Carbon footprint reduction is a challenge, but it’s imperative to modern business; a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme found that predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 42% to achieve the 1.5% benchmark for limiting the effects of climate change.
This article provides a comprehensive guide to evaluating and minimising your global mobility program’s environmental footprint and aligning business practices with environmental sustainability in your global mobility strategy.
Understanding the Environmental Stakes of Global Mobility
According to PWC, 91% of business leaders believe their company has a responsibility to act on ESG issues. Relating to global mobility, the complexities are real. Frequent international travel, the transportation of personal belongings during relocation and extended supply chain issues like housing and office space procurement generate substantial carbon emissions.
The Carbon Footprint of Business Travel
Research suggests that almost a third of aviation emissions in Europe come from business travel. While air travel is unavoidable for most global businesses, there are various ways to mitigate carbon impact.
For example, Reuters found that business-class aviation emissions are three times higher than economy-class. Substantial carbon savings can be made by flying international assignees economy – and today, eco-conscious employees are more likely to embrace a solution offering a carbon footprint reduction.
Airplanes are not the only mode of business transport, of course. Sustainable global mobility planning should also consider the impact of cars, taxis, and accommodation and whether alternatives like virtual meetings or measures such as carbon offsetting apply.
The Effects of Relocation on Sustainability
Trucks, ships, and planes transporting large personal belongings over long distances generate significant transportation emissions and large amounts of waste.
Here are just three potential environmental effects of relocation on sustainability:
- Packaging materials like bubble wrap and packaging tape are hard or impossible to recycle, depending on the destination.
- Trucks carrying personal goods are more likely to be powered by fossil fuels than electricity.
- Heating, cooling, providing water and maintaining temporary accommodation (moving/removing furniture) generates unavoidable waste and carbon.
However, a negative environmental impact is not a given in global mobility; carefully planned programs balanced with corporate environmental responsibility objectives can tip the balance towards carbon neutrality.
Conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment
Here’s our step-by-step guide to conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA), evaluating the environmental effects of employee relocations and related activities.
- Define your EIA scope and objectives. Identify environmental impacts and quantify the carbon emissions that will shape the assessment of how sustainable your relocation process is.
- Identify assessment areas in your global mobility program. Employee travel, relocation logistics, temporary housing and supply chain activities are viable areas for assessment.
- Set environmental metrics. Define specific metrics, for example, carbon emissions, energy consumption, water usage, waste generation, and non-renewable resources.
- Run impact assessments. Gather data on transport emissions, relocation logistics, and temporary housing and supply chain impacts. Consider metrics like resources used, environmental performance and efficiency and the environmental impact of procurement activities.
- Utilise Environmental Impact Assessment tools. Use accurate tools and calculators to assess relocation and travel activities.
- Monitor, report and analyse. Implement systems to assess progress against baseline data, adjusting as needed regularly.
A robust Environmental Impact Assessment identifies opportunities for improvement and informs mitigation strategy. Engaging stakeholders early and throughout the EIA process helps build a continuous improvement culture, with everyone working towards more sustainable and responsible business practices.
Identifying Key Areas of Environmental Concern
Air travel and relocation logistics are the primary areas of significant environmental impact in global mobility, but secondary concerns shouldn’t be overlooked. For example, the construction, maintenance, and energy usage involved in the extended supply chain of temporary housing.
Strategies to mitigate environmental impact include virtual meetings, eco-friendly packaging and carriers, and energy-efficient accommodation. For example, the scientific journal Nature found that transitioning from in-person to virtual conferencing can reduce carbon footprint by 95% and energy use by 90%.
Tools and Resources for Measuring Impact
Carbon calculators and life cycle assessment tools help gather accurate carbon data on deployments.
- Carbon calculators can be specific to travel, giving actionable insights into the carbon impact of various travel options.
- The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol provides a framework for measuring and reporting corporate greenhouse gas emissions, covering indirect emissions from business travel.
- Life cycle assessment (LCA) software lets users model and assess the environmental impact of products, services and processes throughout their life cycle.
Platforms like Centuro Connect are also helpful in understanding the life cycle of global mobility programs. Centuro Connect tracks employee relocations, travel patterns and other related data in one easy-to-use dashboard. To support business objectives, sustainable global mobility practices must also be compliant; global mobility platforms like Centuro Connect help to support this with up-to-date resources.
Strategies for Reducing Environmental Impact
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to carbon footprint reduction in sustainable global mobility planning. The key to success is introducing strategies synergised with business practices and company culture.
Some businesses find video conferencing and virtual collaboration tools alleviate the need for physical travel. For others, eco-friendly transportation is the way forward. Sourcing green logistics providers and energy-efficient temporary housing makes sense in a sustainable relocation program.
Sometimes, carbon in the supply chain is unavoidable, and a carbon offsetting program is often the short-term answer. According to Deloitte Insights, large employers like HSBC are incorporating offsets into their low-carbon policies for business travel.
Implementing Eco-Friendly Travel Policies
When implementing environmental impact reduction strategies, policy changes encouraging or mandating eco-friendly travel options encourage employees to make greener choices.
Policies incentivising travel options like public transportation, cycling, or walking and giving preference to hotels with carbon-neutral credentials lead by example, giving employees confidence in their leaders’ environmental commitments.
Promoting Sustainable Relocation Practices
Advocating for relocation services prioritising waste reduction is better for the planet and ticks the boxes on corporate environmental responsibility. Simple carbon footprint reductions in the relocation process include:
- Recycled packing materials vs single-use materials
- Less packing materials vs more package materials
- Digital documents vs printed documents
- Electric (or fuel-efficient) vehicles vs gas or diesel vehicles
- Renewable energy providers vs non-renewable providers
- Energy-efficient temporary housing vs traditional housing
Integrating Sustainability into the Global Mobility Framework
Clear objectives, ‘green’ guidelines and policies, employee education and training and the use of technology are just some modern practices helping to integrate sustainability into global mobility frameworks today.
Incorporating sustainable practices into the broader framework of global mobility policies and everyday business operations associates corporate values with environmental responsibility.
Educating and Engaging Employees
When employees feel confident about their leadership team’s motives, they respond better to learning about the carbon implications associated with travel, relocation, the use of technology, and even offsetting. Top-down leadership is critical, fostering a culture of environmental awareness among employees and suppliers.
For employees on international assignments, it’s crucial to provide training on sustainable practices relevant to their host country, allowing your workforce to incorporate sustainability into their everyday routines. Centuro Global support this by offering global blueprints in over 170 countries.
Education on sustainable practices should start with onboarding, coming full circle with employee feedback mechanisms, and developing a culture of inclusivity and continuous improvement.
Aligning with Environmental Standards and Certifications
Sustainability is an overused buzzword in the digital space. Therefore, environmental commitments carry more weight when backed by a recognised certification like ISO 14001. It’s a credible affirmation your business is actively taking steps to minimise its environmental impact.
An ISO 14001 certification brings many benefits aside from the obvious reputation-enhancing ones; it can help to improve operational efficiency, which reduces environmental risks and leads to cost savings; your bottom line could improve as a result.
Evaluating and minimising your global mobility program’s environmental footprint and aligning business practices with environmental sustainability requires top-down leadership and an integrated approach to employee engagement. Sustainable practices are important to everyone, from customers to employees. When it comes to corporate environmental responsibility, demonstrating your company’s commitment to sustainability through everyday company culture makes it clear that you mean business. Contact Centuro Global for a consultation on how to improve the environmental impact of your global mobility program.