Capgemini and Cognizant to keep business travel at bare minimum

24 August 2021 4 min. read
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Speaking at a remote conference, the travel leaders of two global consultancies have said their firms aim to scale back on business travel post-lockdown. Katharina Navarro of Capgemini and Drew Mitchell of Cognizant both noted that their consultants had been able to perform their duties relatively well during the pandemic, leading the companies to re-evaluate the need for regular international travel.

Over the last decade, environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks have swiftly risen to the top of the investment community’s priorities – and as a result, C-suite resistance in the consulting industry has shrunk considerably. With corporate buy-in secured, the world’s biggest consulting firms have spent recent years pushing ahead with major ESG drives across both their organisations, and their clients.

A number of the industry’s ESG leaders have put great emphasis on travel as part of this drive. For example, strategy giants Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company both recently announced plans to curb the amount of travel their staff participate in, as well as ensuring that such travel was powered with sustainable energy.

Capgemini and Cognizant to keep business travel at bare minimum

Now, technology-focused consultancies Capgemini and Cognizant have also announced plans to curb business travel, and the emissions it causes. Travel chiefs from both global consultancies have outlined programmes to make employee travel extremely difficult to justify, after successfully running their businesses remotely amid the pandemic.

Cognizant has decided to continue its travel ban for the rest of the year. According to Drew Mitchell, Cognizant’s regional travel director for the Americas, the firm found its sales teams and client teams to be “very successful at virtual presentations,” and as a result, Cognizant is “going to try and continue that.”

Speaking during a two-day WIN Global Travel Network and Hickory Global Partners virtual event, Mitchell announced that starting in the first quarter of 2022, the company will introduce a pre-authorisation requirement for all travel, which will be tied to budgets. At present, Cognizant is developing the approval form and code to prepare for that launch.

Meanwhile, according to Katharina Navarro, Capgemini’s global category manager travel, there is the possibility of a travel cap, with further reductions due to corporate sustainability plans. She said at the same event that this will see Capgemini adopt a “zero-based” budget approach, and question the need and return on investment of every single trip, starting in 2022. In this case, employees may need to “bundle” several reasons for their travel in the future, rather than attempting to book a flight just for a single meeting.

Navarro added, “It came as a bit of a positive shock to see that we can do so much digitally, and that we can not only win new clients, but deliver full end-to-end projects on a virtual basis… It’s really a new proven concept.”

On top of the ecological benefits of this, there are major financial motives too. Adding both firms’ efforts together, the absence of future corporate travel could save the firms a total of $900 million from their budgets. Cognizant has 300,000 employees, and according to Mitchell, before Covid-19 its spent $250-$300 million on air travel alone. Meanwhile, of Capgemini’s 250,000 staff, 80,000 used to travel worldwide – seeing it hit an even larger figure of $600 million in travel fees, as confirmed by Navarro.

The news may be less welcome to the aviation and hospitality industry, however. Having been battered by the crisis throughout the lockdown months, the hotels and flight companies that have survived will have regarded the return of corporate travel as a lifeline – but as more businesses scale back on travel in this manner, it is a lifeline which looks increasingly like it is going to disappoint their expectations.