This week is the start of Green October

David Roberts, MD of Co-op Property tells us why we’re doing this, and how his team plans to save £2million on travel and expenses.

When the Fuel for Growth Cost Categories were allocated I really wanted travel and expenses, as I assumed that we spent more on it than we actually do. But after running all the reports and analysing thousands of invoices, we saw that we benchmark OK for a business of our size.

But we’re not just a business. Considering we’re a Co-op and not a PLC, we still spend too much on travel and expenses – about £10 million a year. At the end of the day, every penny we spend needs to be used in the best possible way, to get value for our colleagues, members and communities.

In the travel and expenses category we have a savings target of £2m a year. There are lots of things we’re going after, and they’re all about getting better deals, and asking colleagues to book more smartly too. It’d be great to have your help to make sure your teams are on board with these changes:

We’ve launched a new travel policy

While travel is in many cases essential and we want colleagues travelling to be comfortable, our new travel and expenses policy makes sure we’re not spending excessively:

  • We’ve changed the amount you can spend on an evening meal when travelling to £20, which is a reasonable amount for a meal and a drink in a hotel
  • We’re asking colleagues to book all travel through Clarity, with no exceptions. And where possible you should book online rather than calling, as we’d save about £60k a year. Clarity may not always seem cheapest, but we get volume discounts that you can’t see when you book, and using them helps us manage spend better. It also means we know where you are in an emergency
  • We’ll be monitoring costs better and flagging to managers when hotels are booked out of policy, or when open tickets or First Class tickets are booked

We’ll see what’s possible during Green October

The policy changes will get us some way towards our target, but the only way we’ll make a sustainable change is for us to reduce the number of journeys we make by 20%. As well as saving money this will make us greener which should motivate us even more to do this.

For the whole of October we’re challenging colleagues to do things differently. Let’s see how much money, energy and CO2 we can save by cutting travel, sharing cars, having fewer meetings, printing in black and white and switching meeting room and computer lights off when we go home.

We need to change our meeting culture

When I first looked into the travel reports I assumed that most journeys would be people visiting stores, funeral homes or depots, but actually it isn’t – the majority of travel is for meetings. Last year we spent £240k on train travel to and from London. We have to ask whether all these journeys were essential or if we could do them on the phone, by videoconference, and even question whether a meeting is really needed.

Some of this is down to us as CCOs to sort out – we need to make it easier for colleagues to use technology. We’ve already put more meeting rooms in 1 Angel Square on the booking system and put TVs in more rooms. We’ve also repurposed the old boardroom on 9th floor with sofas and breakout areas, so colleagues can book it as an away day venue, instead of going outside.

I’ve worked for the Co-op quite a while now, long enough to see various cost cutting initiatives but none of these have landed as well as Fuel for Growth. This is such a great example of working as One Co-op. It’s bringing people from all areas together to come up with ideas and solutions. It really needs to work so that we’re not doing it again in a few years, so please work with your teams to make any changes needed.

Thanks for all your help so far.

David Roberts
Managing Director Co-op Property