Stride Treglown’s business travel for the year is around 1.4 million km. That’s the equivalent of 34 times around the world. A staggering and upsetting thought.
Most of this travel was by rail and road, getting us to and from meetings. But lockdown has shown that we can drastically reduce our impact on the planet by saying no to unnecessary business travel. We must all commit to another way.
As a practice with 9 UK offices delivering 1000 projects each year, our Senior Management team overwhelming support limiting business travel. But, faced with potential consequences or push back from clients for declining face-2-face meetings, their resolve starts to waiver.
A third of the UK’s carbon footprint is attributable to business travel. Imagine if all UK architectural practices took a stance similar to us to reduce business travel? Behaviour change is possible. But as an industry how do we set and agree our new rules of engagement for business meetings? How can we make a substantial difference with clients and the wider design team? What ambitious targets can we collectively set?
During lockdown we’ve all been in it together. We’ve embraced new ways of working. It’s been easier to arrange project meetings. Shorter more focused sessions, giving clients time to reflect and think through decisions, became the norm. Formal agendas improved efficiency with people attending for specific slots rather than wasting a whole day travelling.
Now we’re coming out of lockdown – old habits are starting to creep back in with face-2-face meeting requests on the rise. How can we build-on the business travel reductions of lockdown and dramatically reduce our impact permanently? When is physical travel justified and when should online or virtual tools come into the mix?
I don’t think a blanket ban on travel is the answer – meeting in person can be really productive – preparing for a pitch or as part of a team building exercise. But when we do come together, we must make sure it’s worthwhile, has purpose and is valuable.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent speech talked about getting us all back into the office. It makes sense for business. It makes sense for the economy. But it doesn’t make sense for the environment. It’s tough to say it, it’s time for an economic rebalancing – creating new jobs and businesses to counterbalance the failure of other businesses as our habits evolve to more sustainable alternatives.
I can’t help but come back to the 1.4 million km figure – that’s the impact our single practice is having on the environment. We can’t just go back to how things were. If we went around the world just once a year, 1/34th of what we’re currently doing, that would make a massive positive difference.
Are you planning to change your approach to business travel in light of Covid-19? Would it be helpful if we were to issue our thoughts and potential business travel policy moving forward for discussion? Do you agree with us and align with it? We’d love to hear from you – get in touch to discuss your future policy on business travel and help us define our future rules of engagement. Or join the conversation on our social media channels #TalkingSpaces011