One day last week, in the morning, I held a meeting in Australia. At lunchtime I was catching up with the team here in London, in the afternoon I was demonstrating my product in New York and by the time dusk fell, I had wrapped up a meeting with a potential client on the West coast of America. You may think this entailed endless hours of flights and delays at the airport, not to mention a huge cost and the fact that it is actually impossible to visit these far flung destinations in less than 24 hours.
Fortunately for me, I did not have to leave London. I did not even leave my office. I saved myself 32,864 air miles, 85 hours of travel and 12 hours of sitting around in airports and as well as thousands of pounds that ultimately our clients would end up paying for; welcome to the world of web-meetings.
Business travel always was, and to some extent will always be, a necessary part of life – face time with clients is an important step in building business, building relationships and building your client reach. However, whilst recognising the need for building relationships with our clients, we are now living in an era where on top of costs and shortage of time, businesses need to consider wider environmental initiatives.
The entrance of new technology has made taking steps to lower Co2 emissions and halt climate change much simpler. Video or teleconferencing is becoming the ‘New Normal’ to conduct business meetings, and other collaborative working tools limit the number of individual business trips. This vastly decreases Co2 emissions and reduces a businesses’ environmental footprint.
International business aviation is a growing cause of Co2 emission and one that should not be ignored. (It presently accounts for four to nine per cent of the total climate change impact of human activity.)
In fact, if I were to have travelled to my meetings – Australia, back to London then New York and the West Coast America – all at the unnecessary expense of my clients and leaving me severely jet lagged, my travel would have added up to over 20.5 tonnes of C02 emitted, all in one day.
Every year, each person in the UK is, on average, responsible for about 10 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – this particular day of meetings is more than double this. This figure is alarming, especially as the average individual should only emit 2.0 tonnes of Co2 a year to halt climate change.
To put these figures into perspective, I would need to plant 526 trees to offset just one day of meetings.
Multiply these figures by the thousands of companies that travel internationally to hold meetings unnecessarily and it is benign to assume that international business aviation is having a disastrous affect on the environment – not least the client, or future clients’, bank balance who needlessly pay for these excursions.
Nevertheless, we continue to challenge ourselves on the need, frequency and mode of travel and we are now in significant period of time where less is more.
So much more can be achieved for our clients by demonstrating a product via the web or having an online meeting. It also establishes your product as one that is efficient and practical; a system that does not need a team of on-site specialists to launch and maintain the solution in order for it to run competently.
Clients have wised up to those technology vendors splashing the cash on international travel when web meetings are more practical and save time on all sides. It is no longer seen as showing you care by jumping on a plane – it shows that you are charging your clients too much and wasting their money on expenses – as well as having a negative impact on the environment.
Although travel can feel unavoidable and necessary to get the job done, there are ways organisations can minimise their carbon footprint and have a positive impact on productivity as well as cut the unneeded costs to potential and existing clients; some of which are spoke about here.
Every journey begins with the first step, and that step is analysing its necessity. If a business agenda or client goal can be completed through a web meeting then this is the most reasonable option. Conducting meetings via the web is seen as the most ‘Green’ alternative to flying needlessly. It saves you time, saves your client money and diminishes the negative impact it will have on the planet.
Lastly, and by no means least, using alternative options to international business travel for positive environmental factors can make your business stand out from the crowd. It is not always about what you sell, but what you stand for and if you can show your customers that you not only care about profit, but the environment as well then you are setting yourself apart from the mass.