Road less travelled

Climate change, identified in the Stern report and elsewhere as the greatest
threat to our economic well-being, can be dealt with in part by a workplace
revolution, according a joint TUC and CBI initiative launched this week.

If that seems like a soundbite in search of a story, it’s worth delving a
little deeper. Because there is much to commend in the joint statement from the
the unions and employers’ bodies. ‘Changing working practices through smarter
working will reduce the need to travel, thus lowering fossil fuel use and
emissions,’ it argues sensibly.

And it’s a change that demands the accountancy profession lead by example.
I’ve been sat chatting to too many senior partners whose chauffeur-driven cars
have been ticking over in underground car parks ready to whisk them to their
next meeting to have failed to recognise that firms’ transport policies are part
of the problem, not the solution.

So what’s the answer? Tube-travelling tax partners? Cycling corporate

I’m afraid the answer has to be ‘yes’. Unless the most senior partners alter
their behaviour, there will be little incentive for other partners to change
theirs. And if they don’t, will many directors question their choices? It really
does filter all the way down. And that’s without mentioning the impact partners
and staff have on client behaviour.

Of course, no one is suggesting cycling across town and sweating through a
client pitch. It’s about changing default positions so that buses are taken
where appropriate and the cars kept only for those occasions that demand them.

In fairness to the firms, many have taken real strides forwards in terms of
corporate social responsibility in recent years. But many of those environmental
policies are already entering those tricky teenage years. And it’s now that they
need more guidance than ever. Especially when it has been easier to focus on an
environmental purchasing policy than it cut unnecessary journeys taken in
unnecessarily carbon-inefficient ways.

KPMG’s corporate Oyster card, launched this week, is to be welcomed. But to
be blunt its success has to be measured by how often senior partner John
Griffith Jones uses it, not just by average usage across the firm.

This, after all, is a revolution that demands action from top to bottom. But
if the firms can apply the same energy to their transport policies as they have
to acquiring art, then it’s one that just might work.

Damian Wild is editor in chief of Accountancy Age

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