The way to a smaller footprint

The global mobility industry’s main associations are working closer together to tackle priority areas for reducing carbon footprint and increasing environmental sustainability. Magali Horbert, FIDI’s Sustainability and Strategic Communications Manager, gives an update


What does a ‘carbon footprint’ look like?

It seems that the world is trying to find its feet, or rather its footprint – its carbon footprint, that is. Look around you and you will see talk of this everywhere: on the ads for ‘zero carbon’ cars, when you book a flight online, even on some food items in the supermarket.

We have all heard about the carbon footprint, a concept that was interestingly made popular through a marketing campaign commissioned by BP (British Petroleum) in the early 2000s, to shift the public’s attention from its own ecological impact to the responsibility of the individual consumer.1 But can you say that you actually know what it means?

Putting things into perspective

Let’s first go back to basics: all human activity produces greenhouse gases (GHGs), of which carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most familiar and prevalent (other major GHGs are methane, linked mainly to the farming of livestock; and nitrous oxide (N2O), linked mainly to fertiliser in agriculture).

Everything we do generates GHG emissions (measured in tCO2e, or tonnes of CO2 equivalent). And all the emissions linked to our individual human activities taken together – what we eat, what we wear, how we live, how we travel – represent our individual carbon footprint.

Of course, it is important to put things into perspective – we can’t stop breathing or eating, obviously. But by first understanding our impact and then adjusting our lifestyle, we can drastically mitigate our environmental footprint. As a baseline, scientists recommend that we should aim for a carbon footprint of maximum five tonnes per year – where, currently, the average Western European citizen’s total is between six and eight tonnes,2 and only one flight from Paris to New York and back in economy generates two tonnes.3

Understanding the impact of international assignments

Just like individual people, companies also generate emissions through their activities. These emissions are separated into three categories, called scopes:

  • Scope 1 covers direct emissions from controlled or owned sources (e.g. the diesel in your trucks or the gas used by your facility’s gas boiler)
  • Scope 2 relates to indirect emissions from purchased electricity, used to generate steam, heat, and cooling
  • Scope 3 is the broadest and most complex category, as it covers all other indirect emissions linked to a company’s activity – including the emissions generated within its entire supply chain. Some examples of Scope 3 emissions are business travel and employee commuting; the production and disposal of packing material; and emissions linked to air and sea transportation of goods.

Businesses across the world are under mounting pressure to measure and report on their emissions, and the moving and relocation industry is no exception. As national and international legislation is forcing companies to calculate their environmental impact across all three scopes, stakeholders across the relocation supply chain are scrambling to comply.

However, throughout this very diverse and global industry, understanding who needs to calculate and report on what is complicated: one company’s Scope 1 emissions will be another company’s Scope 3 one day, and vice versa the next. This makes clear and simple carbon accounting a very difficult task.

To make matters worse, there are currently no commonly accepted frameworks or guidelines to help make sense of it all. As global mobility stakeholders grapple with confusing and complex concepts and requirements, it has become apparent that our industry needs a common plan.

A roadmap to sustainability

To tackle this common approach across our industry, last year FIDI joined forces with five other leading associations from the global mobility world to form the ‘Coalition for Greener Mobility’. The main purpose of this initiative is to coordinate the actions of all industry stakeholders towards a common sustainability goal and to pool the associations’ knowledge, resources, and efforts to work towards a better global mobility world together.

As a first step, the coalition commissioned an external consultant, Deloitte, to help define the main priorities and next steps (see FIDI Focus 308). The results of this exercise came as no surprise: the main challenges all stakeholders face are linked to a lack of knowledge and data, as well as common definitions and standards.

The following topics were identified as top priorities for the coalition’s roadmap:

  • Education and awareness: each association has already started working on educational programmes for their memberships and there is a wealth of information available for those who look for it. The coalition has agreed to combine their educational material and work on creating a common knowledge hub, available to all members.
  • Carbon measurements and data: highlighted as a key priority, the coalition will work on identifying how best to help all stakeholders measure and report on their carbon footprint in a consistent and coherent way.
  • Defining ‘green global mobility’: without clear baselines and guidelines, it is difficult to understand where each industry player should focus their attention to mitigate the industry’s environmental impact – and who should bear the responsibility for the necessary changes. The first step to solving this conundrum is defining what ‘green’ actually looks like in each relocation sector. This will help to then identify guidelines and best practices, as well as the necessary investments to change business processes.
  • Certification and standards: there is currently a vast number of sustainability standards and certifications in the corporate world, and it is very confusing to understand their individual benefits and value proposition.

The task at hand is ambitious and complex, but the coalition has the unique advantage of being able to draw from the wealth of knowledge of its combined members, spanning across all sectors and continents. The immediate next step will be to create working groups to tackle very specific tasks and topics linked to the main priorities above. In parallel, the associations will continue to promote awareness and education, within the coalition and within their own spheres of influence.

It goes without saying that the success of the coalition’s project will depend on the participation of each of the associations’ members. The coalition is therefore putting a call to action out to the entire global mobility industry, inviting anybody who is interested in the project and wants to participate to get in touch. If we want to reduce our industry’s footprint, we need all the help we can get to walk this path together, step by step. 

Greener moves – think out of the box
When talking about sustainability in global mobility, the focus very quickly turns to the household goods (HHGs) moving sector. This is understandable, since the movers are the ones operating the trucks, managing large warehouses, and handling large volumes of packaging materials – even though a careful look at carbon footprint data shows that the actual impact of the HHGs move weighs little compared with other parts of an international assignment (see the opinion piece by Stuart Jackson, from Sterling Lexicon, on p64).

However, it is undeniable that there are more sustainable ways of doing business, and not all of them need large financial investments and resources. Even drawing a baseline of where you stand now does not need to be complicated – you just need to start somewhere and make a plan.

FIDI published a guidelines document in January 2022 (‘How to be sustainable in the moving industry’, available for download on (, sharing very simple ideas and best practices from FIDI Affiliates. Over the course of this year, FIDI will continue to inform and educate its membership on sustainability-related topics, sharing best practices and practical guidelines.

The upcoming sustainability guideline reports will look at EcoVadis certification and carbon footprint reporting. If you want to contribute to these projects, or if your company has gone through or is planning to undertake the EcoVadis certification programme, please contact Magali Horbert at

There are many free carbon footprint calculators available online – a fun one to try with your family is Don’t take the numbers as exact science, rather as a rough scale of proportion.

For easy and fun reading about the carbon footprint of everything, the book How bad are bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee will help you develop a sense of scale – and might just make you think twice about eating strawberries in winter…

For more information about the coalition, visit the website or send us an email at:

1 See ‘Origin of the concept’ under Wikipedia’s explanation of carbon footprint

2 According to the Worldbank

3 Based on the Curb6 online calculator

Send this to a friend