Frank Harrison is regional security director, UK & North America, at World Travel Protection
The recent COP26 conference in Glasgow drove home the message that we – as individuals, as organisations and as an industry – all have responsibility for reducing our environmental impact and implementing behavioural changes that can play their part in doing so.
Sadly, the realities of climate change are more evident than ever. We are now witnessing widespread wildfires across the Western United States and on the islands and mainland of Greece, unprecedented rainfall in Greenland, and the human impacts of deforestation in South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.
The effects of the increasing intensity of significant weather events globally and the resulting implications of loss and recovery, whether financial or a lack of available resources, mean we can no longer ignore climate change and its impact on businesses.
Environmental-related risks are fast becoming the paramount issue for insurers; and unlike risks with known and quantifiable ratings, climate change has an over-arching effect impacting many factors, from global supply chains to potentially destabilising civil societies.
The failure to protect our environment and the impacts of increasingly destructive severe weather and natural disasters poses a greater risk than the combined threats of infectious diseases. The result may be mass migrations of people from impacted regions and political inability.
There is no switch to turn climate change off. It will require concerted and long-term efforts at all levels, from individuals to governments.
Travel in all its forms – the commute, leisure travel, business travel and the supply chain – all impact the environment. Globally, carbon calculators have become very effective at demonstrating this impact through measurable carbon footprints of activities. Understanding your organisation’s carbon footprint and creating the transparency for business and individuals is the first step to addressing the effects of climate change as an organisation and to enable re-thinking and acting.
Before making decisions around sustainability policies, understanding your impact should be the driver to affect carbon footprint reduction planning. With over a year and a half of working from home for many people, digital interfaces have become common and accepted for most aspects of work.
Businesses need to weigh the cost-benefit over the net carbon footprint of travel. Is the travel core to business operations, development and relationship management? Can a digital interface suffice?
Companies should not only calculate the cost of a trip but also include the offsetting costs in case the trip cannot be avoided. Business should also aim to reduce the carbon footprint of their travellers and help individual employees make informed decisions.
Ask yourself this: as a business, do you address climate change risk within your travel risk management? Many businesses have well-developed business continuity programmes, crisis and emergency event management procedures, and travel assistance capabilities. An organisation’s business travel needs to focus on the traveller, the destination and the activity conducted.
The business traveller needs to be prepared, travel with confidence, be risk-aware, adapt, and be confident to leverage support. The easiest way to do this as an organisation is to provide travel assistance that engages your travellers with current and evolving information specifically for their journey.
Climate change brings many uncertainties, and your travellers will need to know that if they experience a weather event, environmental-related flight disruption, or a crisis or emergency event, that there is a means of emergency notification between employer and employee.
All businesses should be monitoring their carbon footprint, taking action to reduce it and, when the time comes for business travel, be prepared to deal with the effects of climate change.