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April 14, 2007

GREEN MEETINGS: We have a duty to care

People will look back at the turn of the 21st century as the start of a new era in business travel. And if one accepts that the function of business travel is the facilitation of meetings, the meetings industry will inevitably also embrace this new age for, in an increasingly litigious and stakeholder-led environment, companies need to ensure that staff welfare is of top priority.

A culture of regulatory controls aimed at consumer welfare is upon us. Alongside the proliferation of travel taxes and charges, governments at local and regional level continue to increase the level of regulation on companies with regard to their social responsibilities. A Company must now view ‘value’ for it’s stakeholders in many different forms: direct and indirect, tangible and intangible. Companies can overcome these obstacles by ensuring that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and specifically Responsible Business Travel is on the CEO’s agenda and is a core element of overall company strategy.

So what is Responsible Business Travel?
Companies who practice Responsible Business Travel undertake a duty of care towards their travellers’ safety, security and health, as well as the needs of the environment and society at large; they do not procure and maintain a business travel policy with economic cost as the sole measure. Now more than any time previously, providers are beginning to tackle the theme of responsibility at a corporate level.


The pyramid of responsibility

The consequences of these changes for corporations purchasing business travel, hotel accommodation and meetings services are huge. It is no longer acceptable to employees or shareholders to disregard the impact of social consequences of a company’s activities. Failure to recognise this change can have dire consequences on a corporation for both its stakeholders and shareholders. They will eventually pay the price in economic and reputation terms.

It's our duty

CSR or, for the purposes of this article, Responsible Business Travel covers four major areas; duty of care; environment; traveller health; and safety & security. Duty of Care is employers’ common law obligation to protect the physical and psychological health and safety of their employees. This common requirement is reinforced by occupational health and safety legislation, which varies by country.

In the UK, the new manslaughter bill will create a new offence of corporate manslaughter that will make it easier for companies who have shown little or no regard for the safety of their workers or members of the public to be prosecuted for a specific and serious criminal offence. The way an organisation is organised and managed is crucial. This new law makes very clear the level of responsibility a company has for its employees.


The UK Government makes it clear that all managers within an organisation have the responsibility to ensure proper practices and procedures are in place to take appropriate ‘care’ of employees. For example: do you select venues based on price or do you actively take into account the needs and welfare of employees?

Don't assume anything

Do you scrutinize a venue’s record on factors such as hygiene, doctor on call, infection control, cleaning services, air conditioning, water condition, fire regulations, electrical safety and so on? Do you check that your suppliers have effective ‘duty of care’ policies? Staying in well known branded hotel chains doesn’t mean you can assume everything is ok. How effective are their control practices? How often do they do independent assessments? Can they guarantee full ‘duty of care’ enforcement at every location?

An organisation could face litigation from affected employees should a meeting be affected by an unforeseen incident, so it has to show that it places the welfare of employees first and foremost.

…to be continued…

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

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