Why 2023 is going to be the year of sustainability action for global mobility
It is becoming clear that sustainability is climbing the corporate agenda – and that the global mobility industry needs to play its part. There are also signs to suggest that this will be the year when we can move away from rhetoric into action. But aligning global mobility with broader sustainability initiatives will only happen if everyone works together.
How do you fit in?
If you are a global mobility professional, you will have expert knowledge in a number of areas. You will know plenty about visas, expat compensation packages, candidate selection and so on. But global mobility people are not environmental scientists – which is why it is so difficult to know how what you do fits in with your organisation’s sustainability policies. It is perhaps not surprising that a survey by ECA last year found that only 3% of global mobility teams felt that they were ‘successful in achieving sustainability’.
The devil is in the data
The main difficulty is in measurement. Calculating the footprint of each assignment – and then working out the precise ‘carbon contribution’ of each element. Only then can you make meaningful decisions on aligning global mobility strategy with overall corporate sustainability aims.
Let’s take an example. You may consider the carbon footprint of sending a typical consignment of household goods over to the new host country. You know that air freight will be more carbon-costly than transit by sea. But by how much? You might then wonder whether it is more responsible to simply buy new furniture and other items locally rather than shipping at all? But why buy new when you already have perfectly good possessions? There are so many questions – and so little data to go on.
FIDI to the rescue?
The good news is that FIDI is doing a lot of work this year to help you. We will be busy quantifying and measuring for you and will deliver guidelines that we hope will answer some of your questions and enable you to make a meaningful and aligned contribution to your company’s sustainability effort. Before the high season really kicks in, we aim to have that guidance in place – in the form of articles, best practices and reports.
But everyone in the global mobility industry needs to work together if we are to make a difference. A great example of this collective sense of purpose is the coalition formed between FIDI and five other leading employee mobility associations: CERC (Canadian Employee Relocation Council), CHPA (Corporate Housing Professionals Association), EuRA, IAM (International Association of Movers) and Worldwide ERC.
Together, we are establishing a common roadmap and framework for improving sustainability. But while we and our partners work to help produce data and guidance, you too have a crucial role to play: to educate your expats.
Time for a new mindset
Expats are probably also keen to play their role in carbon reduction, so it is time to help them change their mindset towards assignments. In particular, you need to manage their expectations with regard to certain traditional perks of expat life. For example, it might have once been the norm for assignees to fly their entire family back home in business class several times during their assignment. But the carbon cost of such perks is huge.
According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), business class creates up to 4.3 times more carbon emissions than regular seats; so buying economy tickets, or simply taking fewer flights, has to become the standard. In short, the ‘green’ move has to become the default move. If expats want the perk of extra air travel – or perhaps a leased petrol-driven car on arrival, just like they did on their last trip – they have to understand that this is no longer normal. And that it may cost extra.
How about a carbon lump sum arrangement?
The lump sum compensation method is very popular, largely because it encourages expats to be more frugal with their allowance. So perhaps it is time to consider not only a financial lump sum arrangement, but also a carbon lump sum. Could a limited total carbon emission allowance – perhaps with a gentle encouragement provided by penalties for going over that limit – persuade expats to change the way they think?
Consider your supply chain
Another key factor that we need to measure and understand is the contribution of our supply chain partners to the total carbon footprint. Yet the problem here is that many such organisations are small, without dedicated sustainability experts. And, located as they are in different countries and cultures around the world, they all operate in different ways.
All too often their corporate customers demand that they submit data onto a variety of different platforms, which can be confusing, time-consuming and expensive. The large corporates have become very sophisticated in their sustainability strategies in recent years, but they cannot expect the same of every partner.
FIDI and the industry sustainability coalition are working to help members in this regard, but there is also a need for global mobility professionals to appreciate the challenges faced by smaller partners.
Time for action
Many seasoned sustainability experts have been saying that 2023 is the year of real action after many years of preparation. In the global mobility sector, it should become clearer what we need to do once we have some data to work with. Let’s hope that, by collaborating with your supply chain partners and organisations such as FIDI and the coalition, you can have a piece of that action for yourself.