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April 30, 2007

GREEN MEETINGS 3: A responsible approach to procurement

Year on year, procurement professionals drive down travel costs through buying smarter while at the same time reducing traveller comfort and convenience. The negative impact on traveller health and wellbeing has never been greater. Thankfully, it also seems clear that the impetus for greener meetings is coming from the corporates, as PwC’s Mark Avery confirms.

“There is a lot of common ground between what we are doing on both transient and meetings activity where CSR and the green agenda is concerned, not least because we use a lot of hotels for both purposes," says Avery. "Waste management and energy management runs right through their product. It’s about the whole package; we look for their overall commitment to corporate social responsibility, what they are doing with local communities, how they look after their workforce and what they are doing for the environment. We analyse our own business on the same basis.”



The hidden cost of travel

The hidden cost to companies of travel policies which are purely price focused and do not take into account the impact on the traveller are only just starting to be understood. In fact, a sample of frequent travellers shows stress levels to be up to 40% greater than non-travellers. The areas causing most risk are travel to and from the airport and hotels, with the most common complaints with hotels being the bed, noise and lack of facilities.

Focusing on the price of the air ticket and delegate costs does not take into account the perils of getting to the airport or the impact of a lack of sleep in a noisy hotel or a taxi driver who gets lost taking you to your meeting. All these factors are drivers of increased stress levels and poor productivity which costs a company real money.

Although “green” issues are the big emerging subject, the one subject that continues to dominate is traveller safety and security. Crisis management planning, tracking of travellers, emergency evacuation and repatriation are now part of a responsible company’s governance policies. These policies need to be taken serious and require constant management and review.

Are you travellers safe and secure?

While safety and security traditionally refers to personal security (notably anti-terrorism) with tracking closely linked to this, we are now seeing developments in other areas such as insurance of travelling executives, cultural and social impacts, equality/diversity and human rights. Hotels are perhaps the most vulnerable in this area, but how many procurement heads check the performance of their hotel suppliers? What is their diversity policy? Do they allocate safer rooms for single women? Are the levels of security up to standard in higher risk areas?

Numerous traveller surveys have shown that while a majority of business travellers are comfortable with their personal safety and security while travelling, they do value security assurances in locations. A company has a duty to ensure appropriate policies and programmes are in place to protect employees; supported by ongoing communication and monitoring systems.

There’s still a long way to go however, as HBI’s Des Mclaughlin points out. “We’ve not seen any real evidence of CSR as yet playing a significant role in meetings procurement. Some of the elements of CSR are contrary to the ethos of the meetings business.

The impetus for change
There’s no question that flying 20 people down to the south of France on an incentive trip is not as environmentally responsible as sending them by train. The fact is that the business factors that predicate air over rail in that scenario currently override CSR considerations.

The impetus for change has to come from the corporates. Health & safety is the perfect case in point, but it has taken over 10 years for health & safety to become a major item in most organisations’ check lists when planning a meeting. It is now, because company directors can be held personally liable for injuries to their employees.”

Five steps to a responsible approach to meetings procurement
1. Undertake a company health check and identify gaps in policies
2. Be serious – get board decision in support of corrective action
3. Set company wide mission statements and goals
4. Create and implement a programme: bake into company culture: live the message: build from the bottom up
5. Develop a regular, open and transparent reporting regime on performance against stated goals.

Practice what you preach. Does your company…
• Fully understand the hidden and true cost of its business travel policy as it applies to hotel and meeting facilities?
• Use a travel policy that ensures flexibility and duty of care for employees when using hotels on business?
• Recognise the environmental impact of all its business travel activities by measuring and reporting on CO2 emissions?
• Have an environmental policy and engage employees in implementing reduction and/or elimination of CO2 when selecting hotel and meetings accommodation?
• Measure the health impact of frequent travelling on employees, and the impact on productivity?
• Know where its people are in the event of a major incident?


Excerpted from the Hotel Brokers International Meetings Industry Report 2007: Section 6 CSR and the Greening of Meetings. EVENTS:review will be running a series of excerpts from this report over the coming weeks. For a full copy of the report, please contact EVENTS:review

View the previous excerpts: We have a duty to care; Meeting the Challenge of Reducing Emissions

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