Betty Low

Portman is known as the leading practitioner of sustainability among UK travel management companies. Its Responsibly Portman strategy not only helps its customers and colleagues minimise their environmental impact and support charities and communities but it is also responsible for a sustainability programme for Portman itself.

Dawn Murphy, Chief People Officer at Portman says, "Responsibly Portman shapes the way we work together as one team to support our environmental objectives and collectively support charity and community initiatives and monitor their progress during the year.

"Portman also supports community projects in Uganda, Kenya and Ghana through carbon offsetting with Climate Care, together with support for bio-diversity projects in Scotland, with the Borders Forest Trust, and the planting of over 300 trees since 2011."

The travel management company's Responsibly Portman programme allows its clients to measure its carbon emissions by means of the ManageCO2 system whereby Portman's clients' rail and air emissions data is automatically transferred into their own ManageCO2 software.

The ManageCO2 system involves using all the latest country-specific emission factors and calculation methodology for every country of departure. It shows the calculation and the emission factor source methodology used. It includes all of the six "Kyoto gases", not just CO2, and presents this as a CO2 equivalent (CO2e). The CO2e levels are calculated with a full audit trail. Evidence to support emissions factor sources and country specific emissions factors is also provided.

Portman itself measures its senior management's business travel emissions and also makes use of the ManageCO2 software to measure its additional Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. This enables Portman to measure its electricity, water and gas consumption and then evaluate this against pre-set targets.

Customers are also able to offset via the Portman scheme or, if they have more than 5,000 tonnes per year, develop their own solution with ClimateCare.

Participation in either scheme allows clients to receive a certificate confirming their contribution to a renewable energy or energy savings project.

Portman believes that sustainability management is more than a service for clients.

It has "walked the talk" by taking many small steps to change its own corporate culture and consequently lessening its impact on the environment. For example, like many companies, it had regularly practised recycling. It expanded this initiative to its landfill programme. Portman now has its waste collected by Grundon, a waste management company which separates recycling waste from general waste which then goes into an energy-from-waste programme. As well as actually saving the business money, it is doing more to help the environment.

Dawn explains that Portman embarked upon a journey in 2011 to transform the company culture, a process that included introducing standards within the business including ISO and Investors in People. The Portman Integrated Management system includes gaining full accreditation of ISO 14001 for environmental management.

Achieving ISO 14001 means meeting a number of international standards which includes having systems in place for environmental management including auditing, performance evaluation and labelling. Portman regularly reviews, measures and reports its environmental impacts by internal and external audits and holds quarterly reviews by a Management Review Committee led by board directors.

Dawn says that this benchmarking enables Portman regularly to evaluate its actual consumption against targets. She believes that the need to set targets and report results has helped Portman focus on watching what it does and think of ideas to limit any unnecessary growth in emission.

Dawn says, "The biggest thing about this is transparency and seeing what's happening. If you don't have a target you cannot review how you are doing. Even if you set a target of a 1% improvement, you then have an opportunity to review how you have done and set further improvements for the following year."

But sustainability is as much about communities as it is about business and the environment. Responsibly Portman enables its staff also to engage on projects in the community such as the local poppy appeal and supporting charities such as a staff cake sale in aid of Macmillan nurses and the company charity, When you Wish Upon a Star, where over 7 seats to Lapland have been sponsored since 2011. Through its involvement with Business in the Communities, Responsible Business Week 2014, Portman's staff at its Chertsey head office have volunteered to help a local school with its garden.

She adds, "Our aim has always been to help clients to be aware of what even a small change can make to the environment and if they are willing to then start monitoring and reporting on their own carbon emissions they have started taking that first small change. Our journey is by no means finished but it is a journey we are pleased we started and hope that we can make a larger impact by helping our clients."

Although Portman clients can enlist to the formal product parts of Responsibly Portman such as ManageCO2 emissions reporting or ClimateCare's offsetting schemes, Adrian Parkes, Chief Commercial Officer, finds that its clients relate to Portman's sustainability credentials and offerings in many different ways.

"Both duty of care and environmental issues are growing in importance," he says.

Adrian stresses how each of Portman's clients has a different strategy with different priorities and needs.

"It might be to save money, as part of the whole business's sustainability strategy or as part of a client's marketing and drive to find new revenue opportunities," says Adrian. "Clients also want to know about their supply chain and there is a growing requirement for our clients and prospective clients to procure responsibly in line with sustainable procurement strategies". "Company and community, saving money and saving the environment, small steps in different areas in different ways. The Portman example shows how sustainability is not the same meaning to all people or all businesses but that many small steps can make a big difference.

Linked In
Receive the Sustain newsletter
* indicates required