An organisation’s company car policy may be written in black and white, but with an ever-increasing employer focus on cost management, carbon footprint reduction, risk management, business efficiency and effectiveness and time management, alternatives need to be on the agenda.
Travelling to a meeting may or may not be vital, but it is important that employers have assessed alternative forms of mobility and communication.
Historically, car travel has almost always been preferred for ‘meetings’ with prospects, clients, suppliers, colleagues etc.
But, the car may not always be the optimum option in terms of cost, time, reducing risk exposure or carbon-cutting, for example.
A report, Tackling Congestion Driving Growth – a New Approach to Roads Policy, by the influential employers’ group the CBI argues that time and money wasted on Britain’s congested roads can be saved.
It calculates that with vehicle traffic having grown by a quarter in just 20 years, road congestion now costs the economy an estimated £7 to £8 billion a year, which is likely to more than double by 2025 unless action is taken.
Central to the business mobility decision-making process should be a desire by employers to reduce travel costs, reduce the carbon footprint of themselves and their employees and reduce the risk exposure of the organisation and staff.
That means for the majority of employers a radical overhaul of how work-related travel is presently conducted.
Simultaneously, employers must ensure that both they and their employees have all the information available to make a clear decision on whether to travel by car, train or plane; whether to use a company car, their own vehicle or a hire; for short journeys whether to walk, cycle or use public transport; or whether car share, taxi or one of the many technology options such as video or tele-conferencing are viable.
As fleet operators organisation ACFO says in its guide From A to B: The ACFO Guide to UK Journey Planning: “The opportunities for employers to implement a diverse, multi-faceted, sustainable mobility plan and display corporate social responsibility have never been greater.”
But, against that background it can be difficult for employers to weigh up which option is best for each employee when they need to travel to a business meeting or appointment, while taking account of a variety of other factors including: cost, time of journey, distance of journey, associated risks for both employer and employee and environmental considerations.
The decision-making process will often be further complicated by the fact that, particularly in larger, organisations, responsibility for travel options may reside across a number of departments – fleet, HR, finance and procurement to name just four.
There may also be conflicting agendas between the employer and the employees.
For example, the employer may expect a meeting to take place utilising in-house video-conferencing facilities, but the cash-strapped employee decides a face-to-face meeting is required, not necessarily through business necessity but the fact that they want to claim mileage.
When it comes to business mobility the law of unintended consequences is most definitely at work.
According to ACFO director John Pryor, business mobility is a balancing act with no ‘right answer’ and many variables. With responsibility for who travels, how, when, where and at what cost as Arcadia Group’s facilities manager, he says: “My job is to ensure that the group policy is implemented and the best value is given to the traveller to make their trip, while also taking into account other factors such as duty of care.
“For example, our policy is lowest price but we don’t want to save a few pounds on a hotel bill if it means young female staff who we employ having to take taxis late at night when a more suitable hotel is conveniently located for the meeting/appointment.”