The grand setting of Tate Britain for our recent customer and partner event was apt; the gallery’s namesake, the sugar merchant Henry Tate, was one of the most prolific private funders of education initiatives of his day.

And for me, alongside our customers and partners, this event was an educational experience and a realisation, for many, that more needs to be done to address the pressing issue of tackling sustainability in the world of global mobility.

Here are some key reflections and takeaways I took from the event.

Mobility teams have an opportunity to lead the charge

It may not have happened everywhere yet, but very soon executive teams will be scrutinising the carbon footprint of global mobility strategies. From travel, through to housing, shipping and destination services, the spotlight will soon be on each part of the end-

to-end employee journey and where this fits with the bigger picture of the entire business. Why? Sustainability credentials are becoming more and more important when it comes to engaging with suppliers and we are starting to see evidence of carbon reduction schemes factored into things like RFPs. This is rapidly moving to the top of the business agenda and mobility teams have an opportunity to lead the charge with proactive measures that support a more sustainable future. And, of course, ultimately this feeds into net zero targets – and 2050 is rapidly approaching – which will benefit us all.

Shifting the mindset of assignees

It was interesting to hear that while sustainability may be creeping up the agenda for the c-suite, this hasn’t filtered down to assignees themselves – yet.

There was much discussion around how to improve awareness around things like business class travel and its associated carbon emissions, when compared to flying economy, for example. Should we be incentivising assignees to take the greener option? And if so, how? This also filters through to deciding what to ship as an assignee, with Crown UK’s Head of Sustainability Ann Beavis sharing the estimated carbon emitted when shipping individual personal items. Is it better for the environment to purchase new personal effects in-location every time and then how are these disposed of at the end of the assignment? Or to ship and return at the end of an assignment?

It’s not just about moving

How businesses can embed carbon reduction schemes across the entire mobility value chain is a particular challenge. Take destination services as an example. Ensuring transportation for assignees meets your sustainability criteria is difficult to manage – can you book electric vehicles for assignees? Instead of pre-assignment orientation visits, can this be done remotely using virtual reality (VR)? Accommodation tours, school tours, even city tours could be done using VR. But the question is, would assignees accept this and is the technology currently good enough to accurately compare with the real thing?  Balancing the experience with greener options will no doubt be a key factor in these decisions.

Balancing people, planet and profit

Michael Grover, Principal Consultant, Global Mobility at Mercer delivered a thought-provoking talk on the importance of cultural immersion for assignees. Michael spoke passionately about integration into locations and how things like local cultural awareness and language learning can help this process. From a sustainability perspective, encouraging assignees to invest in their local communities, for example shopping locally, buying coffee from independent vendors, as opposed to supporting businesses like multi-national coffee chains, is one step to embedding an awareness of sustainability into every part of the assignee experience.

Most importantly, the message I took from the event was that this is an issue that is only growing in importance and needs to be tackled head on.

For an industry that relies on some of the biggest carbon emitters in order to operate successfully, we all have a responsibility to play a part in the collective effort to ‘green’ mobility. And tackling this head on is the only way to do that.