2021 was the ‘make it or break it year’ for climate action. Thus far, however, the outlook is grim. After massive floods, devastating fires and destructive heat waves, it is clear to us all that now’s the time to take immediate and decisive action. Sustainability in the relocation industry has always been a sensitive subject.
If you think about relocation as an industry that simply hauls transferee’s belongings across borders, then you may conclude that carbon neutrality is something that could never happen. But as we’ve shown before, relocation means far more than simply moving belongings around the world.
As the first relocation company to become CO2 neutral in 2011, Packimpex has joined the fight early on. But this doesn’t mean that being green in the relocation industry is an easy task.
In 2004 we achieved our first ISO 14001 certification (a family of certifications attesting environmental performance) and have retained it ever since. In 2019, we received six industry awards – two of which recognized our environmental efforts. We received Altair’s “Super Star Award for Environmental Consciousness” and the “NEI Award for Environmental Sustainability” as well as the “Environmental Stewardship Certificate” from Graebel. These awards made our motivation levels soar.
Next, we’d like to share some of our effective, tried and tested strategies that have helped us become green(er).
Sustainable development has long been a part of our efforts. For the past 8 years, we’ve supported several international carbon offsetting projects.
In Switzerland, we’ve upgraded our fleet of vehicles to include more hybrid models, we made an e-bike available for our team in Vevey, and we participated in Switzerland’s Bike to Work campaign for the third year in a row.
There are now Green Ambassadors in each of our offices to help us identify ways to reduce waste and shrink our carbon footprint. Below is a more graphic representation of how green we are – well, apart from our logo, of course:
These are just the “big” sustainability projects that take place in the Packimpex offices. We are also strong believers in small gestures with big impact.
Achieving sustainability in the relocation industry (in most industries, for that matter) means that we had to analyse every small activity and figure out if it was eco-friendly or not. And if anything can be improved to make it eco-friendly.
Here are some of the small steps with big impact we took early on:
Read on to find out how we have integrated all of the above into our sustainability strategy.
Every year, for the past 10 years or so, our Accounting department pores over the numbers that make our CO2 stats:
Based on these stats, we know what actions need to be taken for the upcoming year to adjust and further reduce our carbon footprint.
Before the pandemic, in 2019, we had achieved an overall reduction of CO2 emissions by 13% vs. 2018. Until 2019, Packimpex had also reduced the consumption of water and energy per capita in its offices by an average of 5% annually. Despite the radical changes brought about by the pandemic, we believe these six tried and tested strategies are a great start:
As a relocation company who’s recently expanded in five European countries, to say that we need to travel is an understatement. Staying in touch with colleagues across Europe, driving our clients to 8 property viewings in a day, checking potential homes before the viewings ourselves – all these trips can add up to high CO2 emissions. Luckily, our yearly audit keeps us in check. Thanks to this audit, we’ve taken the following steps:
That’s the golden rule of going green, as we all know it. At Packimpex we have recycling collection points in all offices for paper, PET, cans and coffee capsules. We are also making constant efforts to become paperless and reduce printing.
But because we’re a relocation company, we don’t only deal with our own resources. We manage those used by our clients as well. Here’s one example of how we manage this: our Corporate Housing department offers furnished apartments for our corporate clients, mostly for short periods of time. We never discard the furniture in these apartments after use. Instead, we either donate it, sell it or rent it further.
We strongly believe that steps like this are the cornerstone of sustainability in the relocation industry. By coming up with efficient ways to use the resources that are specific to our industry, we can maintain our carbon-neutral standing. We hold ourselves accountable for everything we use (for our own business and for our client’s). And this is an important step in challenging ourselves to do even better when it comes to sustainability.
It is often believed that sustainability is the sole responsibility of management. This is partly true: you can’t achieve sustainability in the relocation industry (or in any other industry) without management buy-in.
But it would be wrong to assume that it’s only the managers who can come up with green initiatives. Our sustainability efforts are fueled by everyone.
We rely on every single one of our employees in all the countries where we are present to support our green efforts. But we also encourage them to step forward with any fresh ideas.
For example, in Switzerland, it was our colleagues who suggested the appointment of local Green Ambassadors to handle all environmental issues and keep our green commitment on track. It was also our colleagues in Vevey who requested an e-bike instead of a car to use for various office errands.
Carbon offsetting is a quick and reliable way to improve a company’s CO2 stats. But getting too attached to numbers can easily cause you to miss the forest for the trees.
We use numbers as a means to track out progress and keep ourselves accountable. However, what we’re most proud of is the way our carbon offsetting initiatives have helped local communities all over the world.
We’ve been investing in carbon offsetting projects since 2013, be it to improve energy efficiency in South Africa (2013), to help community members in Bamako, Mali switch to efficient stoves (2014), or to support wind energy in Turkey (2015-2016).
Starting with 2017, we’ve been supporting two wind parks in Rajasthan, India. The wind parks, located in the arid districts of Pratapgarh and Jaisalmer, not only produce clean energy, but also improve the life of the local communities. For instance, to help the locals overcome water scarcity, the project supports farmers and community members in implementing conservation schemes such as rainwater harvesting, dam check-ups and new irrigation techniques.
Helping local communities all over the world is an important part of achieving sustainability in the relocation industry. We are all connected, no matter where we live. Creating a better home for everyone means local actions with a global view.
We have even involved our clients in our local initiatives with global impact. We now offer CO2 compensation for each relocation. Our clients can choose to pay a small amount along with their fee for carbon offsetting projects.
Sustainability in the relocation industry is a serious matter. Countless reports issued by international bodies tell us the same thing: we have to take green initiatives seriously before it’s too late.
As you’ve already seen, we have been taking it seriously for 10 years now. Still, despite the gloomy forecasts on climate change, we believe we can play our part with no frown on our faces.
Going green as a company doesn’t have to be only about cost and resource-cutting. Bike to Work, a Swiss initiative, gave us a chance to have fun as well. We’ve biked three years in a row in this challenge.
Since 2019, our offices in Germany and Belgium joined as well. In 2019, our six teams covered a total of 2,270 km and together they saved half a ton of CO2. In 2020, even if it was predominantly a home-office year, our eight teams covered 2,379 km and together they saved 343 kg of CO2.
We did even better in 2021 and broke our own record: we saved 450kg of CO2 as six teams biked 3127 km.
The COVID-19 crisis has been described both as a product of our global environmental carelessness and a powerful catalyst for change. It certainly made us all, individuals and companies, dramatically aware that we have to walk the talk. Being green is no longer a fad, but a way of life.
We’re constantly exploring more ideas on how to become greener. While we’ve made great strides in the past 10 years, we know we can do even better. And we plan to!
Now tell us: what strategies has your company been using to become greener? Which do you find to be the most effective in achieving sustainability in the relocation industry? We’re keen to start a conversation with fellow relocation professionals on this burning topic.