A new global standard for managing the risks of business travel, ISO 31030 aims to establish best practice for improving duty of care

They say timing is everything and surely there is no better moment for the arrival of the first global standard addressing how to best manage the myriad potential risks faced by business travellers.

Duty of care and managing risk has become the number one concern for buyers, organisations and travellers themselves as they get back on the road again with the Covid-19 pandemic far from over.

With this unprecedented background, it is with opportune timing that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) finally published its ISO 31030 guidance in September 2021 on managing the risks of business travel.

The genesis of ISO 31030 goes well beyond the current pandemic and the organisation has been working on the standard since 2018 when its first working group convened.

ISO convenor Kevin Myers stresses: "It's not a Covid standard but it covers what you need to think about for Covid. It's been developed because we recognised that managing travel risk was an issue with increased globalisation. It's not about eliminating risk - you can't achieve anything in life without taking risks."

Myers told the International SOS Duty of Care Summit that it was important to adopt a "balanced approach" weighing up the objectives of a business trip against the potential risks for both organisations and travellers.

"When Covid emerged, we reviewed the implications of Covid and lots of the things you need were already embedded in the standard. But we have added an annexe on the global shutdown of transportation," explains Myers.

Myers said ISO 31030 was designed to be a "comprehensive and robust standard", which applies for all types of domestic and international business travel. The guidance covers wide-ranging topics such as security (including information security), safety, health and wellbeing for travellers.

The ISO is keen to emphasise that the guidance and principles apply for all types and sizes of organisations undertaking work-related travel. The standard's overall aim is to create "a structured approach to the development, implementation, evaluation and review of its travel risk management policy and programme".

Bob Quick, executive director and founder of Global Secure Accreditation (GSA), says: "It will have a big impact on the travel industry and travel risk management. It's guidance to the industry and is an authoritative standard that's been in development for several years by experts around the world. It's the first global benchmark for managing travel risk.

"It's really about best practice and giving clear guidance of how to assess risks. It substitutes assumptions for assessment. People assume that things are safe but not all of them are."

ISO 31030 will initially just be guidance for the corporate travel industry, but it could eventually become certifiable to show organisations successfully meet the criteria for managing travel risk.

In the meantime, what's the best advice for buyers and organisations about how to practically engage with the new standard?

Aman Pourkarimi, head of Gray Dawes Consulting, says: "The fundamental principle of ISO 31030 is that organisations must identify, categorise and then mitigate against risks. Whether you subscribe to the ISO accreditation or not, abiding by these principles goes a long way in adhering to duty of care legislation.

"My advice is to get in touch with your travel management company (TMC) to see what live information they can supply at the time of booking in regard to potential risks for the traveller's destination."

Using the new standard to effectively "road test" existing risk management policies and procedures could be the immediate benefit for organisations, as it may help to identify any gaps or areas of concern.

"It will provide organisations with the chance to boost their internal assurance about the safety of travel, as well as improving employees' confidence in travel, so this no doubt is a game changer," adds Arthur Bosch, head of global quality assurance at Wings Travel Management. "Meeting ISO 31030's standards will show travellers their organisation is taking all necessary steps to mitigate travel risk."

GSA's Bob Quick says that demonstrating that you follow the ISO guidance could also become crucial in dealing with any potential legal action if things go seriously wrong on a business trip.

"People need to consider the implications of not adopting the standard – if things go wrong, then any claimant can point to the guidance. Then you have to ask: did we adopt it?" he adds.

Smaller organisations are also urged to look closely at the new standard, even if they don't have dedicated security or human resources departments.

"It's designed for all sorts of organisations - we've been very sensitive to that," says ISO's Kevin Myers. "It's pitched on talking about principles and functions. You have to make sure you look at risk from the perspective of different angles."

The new standard "will definitely help" to improve duty of care, agrees one Germany-based corporate security expert for a global transport company.

She adds: "It's very crucial to be up-to-date and offer employees a very safe working environment. We will be checking our processes for improvement. This is where the ISO standard really helps us and gives us good guidance for this process."

For those who need external assistance in any review process, suppliers such as TMCs, security firms and accreditation specialists can help to audit existing policies to identify weak spots. Several organisations are also offering training on the new standard.

Ultimately, for ISO 31030 to be a success, it will require corporates and suppliers to work closely together, insists Scott Davies, CEO of the UK's Institute of Travel Management (ITM).

"What it does do is create industry best practice that both corporates and suppliers can adopt to increase their oversight and evaluation of risks involved in travel," says Davies. "This has many benefits that will help buyers and risk managers develop an efficient and unified process to ensure the safety and wellbeing of travellers."

It may not have a catchy title but ISO 31030 could significantly help organisations to improve how they assess and manage travel risk in the coming years, as well as setting standards in how to cope with events such as the current pandemic and other crises to come.

ISO 31030: Travel risk management - guidance for organisations

September 2021 after three years in development by ISO.
Target audience: People within organisations responsible for managing risks.
Applies to: All organisations with duty-of-care responsibilities for work-related travel.
Key components: Policy; programme development; threat and hazard identification; opportunities and strengths; risk assessment; prevention and mitigation strategies.
Further information: Find out more about ISO 31030 here.