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Following its British division's pledge to donate corporate card charge rebates to charity, accounting firm KPMGlast month joined nine other firms in a commitment to the Institute of Travel Management's Project Icarus environmental program.
The British and Irish professional association has enrolled BBC, Barclays, Carillion and Inmarsat, among others, in the Icarus program, which launched in 2006 and has since been opened up to non-ITM members. The program offers a toolkit to help travel buyers achieve by 2050 a "60 percent reduction in emissions across the business travel sector," an accreditation program "to recognize those who engage" and an awards program for "innovative suppliers who engage in environmental impact-reduction product development."
"KPMG will be able to wear its Icarus commitment badge with pride and clearly demonstrate to business travel suppliers and other stakeholders that they mean business when it comes to greening their travel program," according to ITM executive director Paul Tilstone.
According to a prepared statement by KPMG U.K. director of corporate social responsibility Mike Kelly: "As a professional services firm, we find that air travel contributes significantly to our total carbon emissions."
He told The Transnationalthat one reason his firm joined the program was to address employee expectation as evidenced by the popularity of the earlier card rebate-donation initiative. "We did a push on that internally in the U.K. in August," he said. "In September, more than 1,000 people signed up out of 10,500--not all of whom are Amex cardholders anyway."
The program has resulted in the donation of more than £600,000 (US$1.03 million) to develop and deploy energy efficiency programs in hospices, saving more than 500 metric tons of carbon emissions. "I know it's not massive in the numbers," said Kelly. "But to me it's very neatly holistic. If you are traveling, you're generating a small amount of income for the charity. The charity is using it with our volunteers to use their skills to reduce the energy load, the hospice benefits from reduced operating costs and the planet benefits from reduced carbon."
Internally, KPMG International's global commitment is to reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent from a 2007 baseline, "and by 2010 we expect a majority of that," Kelly said. Key initiatives are related to employee behavior changes--such as turning off computers before heading home--and building facilities.
Asked about some firms' comments about going carbon-neutral, Kelly reiterated previous doubts about carbon offsets. "The only way you would achieve that from business travel at the moment would be through an offset. That would be an easy 'get out,' but, at this time, we're being challenged to be more innovative."
Among other initiatives, the firm has a videoconferencing program in place that this year received all new telepresence technology, and Kelly said it is taking another look at how to promote the alternative at the travel point of sale.
Meanwhile, he expects participation in ITM's Icarus to offer "shared learnings," as well as "additional discipline" because it requires public reporting.
Asked whether he thinks economic concerns are pushing so-called green business travel to the back seat, Kelly said, "Internally, it's certainly not. I think it's worth remembering that most environmental programs ultimately get rid of waste."
ITM next week plans to announce its Icarus award winners, which last year included Apex Hotels, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, easyJet and Virgin Trains.
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