Sustainability in the relocation industry

by Packimpex on 17 December 2021

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10years co2neutral

6 tried and tested strategies from Packimpex

Sustainability in the relocation industry is a tall order. Learn how Packimpex managed to stay carbon-neutral since 2011 and what we plan to do next.

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 for 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 moving belongings. It means creating a home away from home for transferees and ensuring smooth transfers and integrations into new cultures.

With the industry changing, sustainability in the relocation industry becomes achievable.  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.

Sustainability in the relocation industry:
the start of Packimpex’s journey

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).

How green is Packimpex?
A look at the numbers

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:

  • Every email we didn’t print helped us take extra steps towards carbon neutrality.
  • In fact, we seldom use the printers in our offices and only when it’s absolutely necessary.
  • We designed our offices in a way that maximises natural light.
  • Everyone has to participate in this effort, irrespective of the department they work in.
  • Turning off all the electronics and the heat during the night helps a lot.
  • We invest in energy-efficient electronics and sustainable office materials whenever possible.
  • We encourage our employees to go green beyond the office and implement as many eco-friendly initiatives in their homes as well.

Read on to find out how we have integrated all of the above into our sustainability strategy.

How we did it – some tried and tested strategies to achieve sustainability in the relocation industry

Every year, for the past 10 years or so, our Accounting department pores over the numbers that make our CO2 stats:

  • How much petrol did we use?
  • How much water did we consume across all our offices?
  • How about energy?

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:

1. Keep a close eye on transport and fuel needs – what can you improve to reduce CO2 emissions?

As a relocation company who’s recently expanded in five European countries, to say that we need to travel often is an understatement. Staying in touch with colleagues across Europe, driving our clients to 10 home 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:

  • We’ve invested in a green fleet of hybrid cars and we plan to add more green vehicles.
  • The Vevey office acquired an e-bike and we’re happy our colleagues put it to good use on a regular basis.
  • We’ve reduced business travels by 62% since 2018. Of course, working from home during the first waves of the pandemic has had a major contribution to this reduction. The same can be said about business travel which was also put on hold. However, when traveling and commuting can’t be avoided, we offset our carbon footprint by other means. Investing in a stack of digital solutions, for instance, has helped us minimise traveling even more.

2. Reduce, re-use or recycle all resources

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’ve partnered with Swiss company Fel Fel to provide sustainable meals that use local ingredients in recyclable packages. We are 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.

3. Get your employees’ buy-in – ask them for ideas on how to be greener.

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 Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK 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.

4. Go global: invest in international carbon offset projects

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.

You may have noticed that none of these initiatives took place in countries where Packimpex has offices. Why did we invest in sustainability programs so far away from home?

Well, first of all, because you can’t care for a part of the ecosystem and hope that the beneficial impact of your actions will be automatically dispersed everywhere. Secondly, we strongly believe that being a global company means more than doing business on every continent. It also means taking care of every continent as best you can.

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.

5. Bring everyone together

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. This appears automatically on quote pages and clients can choose to add it to their bill if they wish.

6. Have fun with it

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.

Sustainability in the relocation industry: an ongoing commitment

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.