How to raise the CSR bar for global partners

BCD Travel’s sustainability expert gives advice for improving corporate social responsibility among partners and suppliers.

One of the biggest challenges for a global company is achieving operational consistency across countries, including corporate social responsibility practices. Achieving uniform ethical, social and environmental compliance requires overcoming language, cultural and resource barriers. Factor in the CSR practices of external partners, and the complexity mounts.

BCD Travel has taken on this challenge with gusto since 2016, when it became the first travel management company to earn a gold rating from internationally recognized CSR ratings firm EcoVadis. The TMC retained and improved upon its gold rating in 2017 and 2018. At the same time, BCD’s partner agencies in markets across the globe deepened their commitment to CSR.

Sharon Dirks, BCD’s director of sustainability

“We’re working hard to support our partner agencies as they improve the sustainability of their operations,” said Sharon Dirks, BCD’s director of sustainability. “It matters to BCD because the performance of these agencies is included in the supply chain metrics we report in our annual Sustainability Report—and our progress matters to clients. But we also just want to be good partners in these agencies’ efforts to improve environmental and business practices that make a difference in their local communities.”

A model for CSR success

In 2017, BCD began building what Dirks describes as a “reliable and repeatable process” to reduce the time and effort it takes to improve sustainability practices among partner agencies.

Dirks began by prioritizing, putting the partner agencies serving the destinations most visited by clients’ travelers at the top of her to-do list. Next, she recruited at least one CSR champion within each partner agency.

“This is the go-to person or group that promotes the mission and ensures proper policies and practices are in place. They can help you identify gaps and provide consistent reporting,” Dirks explained. The champion might be an office manager, someone in human resources or a project team working together on sustainability improvements. Whoever it is should have a strong desire to improve sustainability and be in a position to make change happen within their agencies.

Finally, Dirks established a system of training and support that the partner agencies could rely upon. She scheduled regular conference calls, webinars and email check-ins with CSR champions, using the communications to share best-practice templates and provide examples of what was working in other countries.

Investing in sustainability

BCD’s “reliable and repeatable process” for supporting partner agencies’ CSR efforts has gotten results. Over the last three years, 35 partner agencies participated in an EcoVadis assessment. In 2018, nine agencies were re-assessed to evaluate their improvements. Five achieved EcoVadis’ second-highest silver rating, which means they scored higher than the average across all the rating firm’s assessments worldwide. Three agencies improved their score to a bronze rating. One agency actually earned gold.

“We believe in investing time and energy in guiding our partners toward greater sustainability because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for our business,” Dirks said. “Achieving consistency in partner markets demonstrates the importance we place on sustainability to our employees and to our clients—which is key for retention. It also helps us attract new employees and clients who share these values.”

Discover seven steps for greater sustainability and ask how BCD Travel can help you build a more successful and sustainable global travel program.

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