KPMG UK Promotes Green Travel, Makes Card Rebate Pledge  

9 January 2008:

KPMG UK estimates that its rebate, plus donations by the portion of its 11,000 staff who use Amex cards, will produce a £100,000 (US$193,000) contribution, which will be given to its preferred charity, Help the Hospices. KPMG UK during the fiscal year ending in September generated revenues of £1.6 billion (US$3.3 billion).

KPMG UK head of corporate social responsibility Mike Kelly has been collaborating with the firm's travel department for most of his eight years in the position, including early programs related to surface transport, car pooling and travel policies that promote remote conferencing.

This latest program is part of what Kelly called a "holistic" approach to CSR and carbon awareness—all driven by a board-level commitment.

"Really effective CSR—work that makes a big difference inside and outside the business—requires strong leadership," according to KPMG UK's 2007 annual report. "So in 2006 we established our first CSR Leadership Team, headed by U.K. board member Ashley Steel. The group defines our CSR strategy, makes sure our performance is measured rigorously and reports back regularly to the main board. Our priorities are to integrate CSR into the business and help KPMG people understand fully why CSR is important. An important objective for the firm is to develop closer relationships with our clients, suppliers and people, to help embed CSR into the way of life at KPMG."

KPMG UK chairman and senior partner John Griffith-Jones last summer made public the firm's doubts about the effectiveness of carbon offsetting programs, and noted that KPMG was attempting to use the most efficient aircraft for business travel. "We have reduced our emissions by more than one-third since 2000 through such initiatives as switching to renewable electricity, recycling and providing alternatives to travel," he told the Financial Times. "But half of our carbon footprint is now accounted for by air travel, and we can't quite see how we can deliver services to our international clients without it." In the 2007 annual report, KPMG UK indicated that air travel was growing by about 9 percent per year and called it the "toughest carbon challenge."

"As a relationship business, much of our work depends on face-to-face contact. Therefore, traveling is essential," the firm wrote. "We are addressing this. We already take part in around 10,000 hours of audioconferencing each day and will do more. Videoconferencing is now available in all of our U.K. offices and has saved around 9.9 million miles of travel in the past four years. Car sharing schemes and incentives to use public transport are helping. There's more to do here, but we are working hard to find smart ways to minimize our impacts."


Dovetailing with KPMG's efforts to help reduce its preferred charity's carbon footprint by auditing Help the Hospices' energy use, the new American Express points program "rewards rail travel with extra points with the aim of increasing the use of the train on short-haul journeys, where rail travel can be a viable alternative to flying or driving," according to Kelly.

KPMG UK last year "made nearly 2,000 journeys from London to Paris and nearly 1,000 journeys from London to Brussels," according to the firm. "Around two-thirds of these journeys were made by train."

Kelly said employee points donations have no personal tax implications because "the Membership Rewards points have no monetary value." A possible side benefit, noted a spokesperson, is that KPMG's charitable or eco-conscious employees may choose to use the firm-preferred Amex cards instead of their personal ones.

"Overall, we want to reduce the carbon intensity of our business," said Kelly. "It's not just about purchasing carbon offsets. Rather than liposuction, we go to the gym."

Source: Jay Campbell, The Transnational

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