Sustainable Global Mobility — a revolutionary roadmap for everyone in our industry
There’s pressure on our sector from all sides to become more environmentally sustainable. But can our tiny contribution make a difference, or is it all just greenwash and well-intended words?
In this edition of Reloverse, we look at what we might achieve collectively—with our clients, contractors and competitors, and ask “Are we ready to take concrete steps toward sustainability, or just window dressing as our world gets warmer?”
Human reliance on fossil fuels for the last two centuries has come at a cost. Oil, gas and coal emit exorbitant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming and contaminating the air we breathe. So there’s understandably a popular push for cleaner, greener energy.
The pandemic had far-reaching impacts on energy demand in 2020, reducing global CO2 emissions by 5.2%. But the world has experienced a rapid economic recovery since then, with more coal being burnt than ever before—reversing every gain made under Covid restrictions. Coal accounted for over 40% of the growth in global CO2 emissions in 2021, as electricity demand in China jumped by 10% last year alone (a rise equivalent to the entire demand of Africa). So against this backdrop, it’s easy to be cynical from a service industry stance about whether switching to LED lighting or recycling more cardboard cartons can make a meaningful difference.
Younger, more engaged customers and staff are forcing all kinds of companies to mitigate their environmental impact. It’s driving international legislation and ramping up pressure from corporate clients to make sure we’re all doing our bit toward a more sustainable future—and to prove it. By definition, international relocation requires travel and cross-border collaboration, often with people and in places where environmental sustainability is less of a national priority. So most Global Mobility firms have focussed on centralised functions and things they have greater control over to find quick wins.
As anyone interested in environmental, social and governance principles knows, easy gains or opportunities to find low-hanging fruit are few and far between, and quickly subject to the law of diminishing returns. One of our most visible targets is air travel. Affordability and availability mean we’re flying more: flight numbers have increased by 40% since 2010. But despite being far more carbon intensive than road travel, aviation actually accounts for under 12% of passenger transport emissions. Road transport, on the other hand, contributes almost 75%.
Flights of fancy
At first glance, that might not seem like very big deal. We should just spend more time on Teams and less on transatlantic travel. But a very small percentage of the world flies frequently. Even in richer continents like Europe and America, only around half of people fly in any given year, and just 12-15% are perennial passengers. It’s statistically simple to argue if these commercial travellers were on assignment in country, their carbon footprint would be even lower, too. Meanwhile, down at sea level, ocean freight operators are searching for new ways to propel vessels, but that’s years away. So for now, they are making incremental micro gains such as lining shipping containers with bamboo, instead of Rockwool and plywood.
Drop in the ocean
Given that a super container ship pumps out CO2 comparable to that of a small country, isn’t changing one wood lining for another akin to the proverbial rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic? From a strategic point of the view, the answer is, surprisingly no. Incremental improvements at sea and in the air can’t be measured solely by greenhouse gas volumes, but by awareness, attitudes and a clear direction of travel. When it comes to sustainability, the way we do anything is the way we do everything. Each action adds up.
Dominic Offer, our newly appointed ESG Manager, explained, “Migration is one of the UN’s greatest concerns for the near- and long-term future of our planet. Climate emergency will see civilians and businesses moving to escape the impacts of global warming. Our industry is in a unique position to deliver support for this inevitable shift, but we must change our mindset and provide these solutions sustainably”.
It seems that green is everyone’s favourite colour right now. So there’s a broad consensus we need to change and collectively care about the way we work. But we operate in a healthy, hugely competitive market — which means there’s a Wild West of initiatives, experiments and expensive consultants out there delivering disjointed, siloed solutions. So there’s welcome news that six prominent Global Mobility associations have come together as one to help us collaborate on a single-minded roadmap towards a truly sustainable future.
Joining forces in this effort are the CERC (Canadian Employee Relocation Council), CHPA (Corporate Housing Professionals Association), EuRA, FIDI Global Alliance, IAM (International Association of Movers) and Worldwide ERC (WERC). And Santa Fe Relocation is truly onboard.
Sustainable supply chain
The road to sustainability requires a change in mindset throughout the value chain, not least by clients and assignees. Thanks to the new alliance, we’ll be able to collaborate and inform all our partners—sharing our roadmap with them based on international standards and goals, and not just our own ingenuity. It also means we’ll all be able to proactively provide customers and clients with tangible evidence of change. All of this will be timed, targeted and measured, making it more meaningful than ever.
Magali Horbert, Marketing and Communications Manager at FIDI, said “Global Mobility is characterised by a complex international supply chain. We must cooperate and be transparent in order to fully understand how each stakeholder’s actions are connected”. She also summed up the challenge nicely, commenting “We’re doing this to ensure our industry is playing its part. It’s not just a question of saving the polar bears, we are also making our business better for it”.
If you’re looking for a partner with sustainable practices spanning the entire relocation journey, we would love to let you know how we make it easy, especially when it comes to the environment. Simply drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you.