Sustainability, employee mobility and the death of the iPhone charging cable.

Globe with IPhone charging cable wrapped around it

Apple have always tried to do things differently but, in 2022, they were finally told they had to fit in with everyone else.

In order to give everyone a single, standard way of charging mobile phones, EU lawmakers said that every iPhone from 2024 would need the universal standard USB-C charging port – instead of Apple’s own ‘Lightning’ connection.

This is what we need to do in the global mobility industry, as we grapple with the problem of sustainability. We all want to move forward and improve the way we work, reducing our carbon footprint throughout the supply chain. But the problem lies in the fact that everyone seems to have a different way of measuring it.

Making life hard for the little guy

Global mobility supply chains can be very long and involve many smaller players, local companies and individuals who play small but essential roles in the business of relocating people around the world. Yet, sustainability initiatives are often driven by the bigger companies at the top.

These large corporates are under pressure from governments and shareholders to prove that they are making their supply chains more sustainable. So their internal procurement departments, prompted by the sustainability teams, ask their supply chain partners to fill out detailed reports on emissions and sustainability practices if they want to keep their contracts.

This is already a difficult task. But it becomes harder when each corporate client has a different form to fill in or a different certification to present, and much of the information requested is not relevant to the moving and relocation industry. And harder still when you consider that the supply chain partner is just ten people in a small office in Rotterdam who just do not have time for this...

Why standardisation will make things easier for all

Standardisation would be a short-term pain for the corporate clients because it would mean changing some of their processes and methodologies.

Corporate global mobility teams would have to talk with their suppliers and understand what sustainability means in practical terms to them. Then they have to take this information up to the procurement and sustainability teams in their organisation to ensure that the compliance requests were reasonable and meaningful. It would also require industry-wide collaboration to agree on a standard approach.

This will take time and effort – but in every other aspect, standardisation would make life easier.  

First, it would streamline the process for the smaller players, reducing the complexity and cost of reporting and enabling them to focus more on reducing their emissions rather than navigating through an intricate web of reporting standards.

A unified reporting framework would also make it easier for regulators to measure the real effectiveness of corporate sustainability efforts, by ensuring transparency, comparability, and accountability.

And there would be a benefit for corporate and individual customers too, since they would find it easier to compare the sustainability of prospective supply chain partners.

A more connected approach to sustainability

The time for making vague promises and statements about protecting the planet is over. Today, every company in the world is responsible for its actions and its impact – and this lack of standardisation is currently stopping us from making the changes we desperately need to make. This was the rationale behind the coalition announced in 2022 between FIDI and five other industry organisations: to develop a common, collaborative framework to streamline the reporting process across our industry and avoid duplicating effort.

Apple thought its Lightning cable was more technologically advanced than the industry standard. It fought against standardisation because it wanted to be free to innovate in its own way. But that’s the problem with innovation. Sometimes it just holds us back.

Right now, we need to move together instead of acting individually. We need to collaborate and find a way of measuring and certifying sustainability that is meaningful and manageable to all. Instead of fancy solutions developed separately, we need a few small steps taken together – and that will constitute genuine progress towards our ultimate, common objective.


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