Pursuing business responsibly

In January 2015 the Kuoni Group’s Board of Directors and Executive Board have decided to focus  the Group’s activities on businesses with leading positions in growth markets and to position the Kuoni Group as a service provider to the global travel industry and to governments. As a consequence we sold our traditional tour operating activities in Europe and Asia.

Also in 2015 – after years of negotiation – countries from across the globe have come to an agreement on climate action in Paris (COP21) and the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a new sustainable development agenda outlined in 17 new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We believe that companies will play a critical part in achieving the SDGs, and with its new business focus, Kuoni Group’s activities remain committed to being part of this journey.

Thus the Corporate Responsibility (CR) function at Group level refocused and redefined its strategy aligned to the new company set-up. The Kuoni Group reassessed the materiality of CR topics for the Group as well as for each Division in 2015 through a broad internal stakeholder survey and external consultation. The focus issues for CR within the Kuoni Group are:

  • its employees;
  • anti-corruption;
  • working conditions at suppliers;
  • sustainable products;
  • human rights;
  • natural resources;
  • climate change.

As a result, strategic CR priorities were defined for each remaining division and CR functions were decentralised. In addition, the Kuoni Group created a new Group Compliance Officer (GCO) function in 2015. The GCO is responsible for drafting and revising the corporate compliance concepts and regulations relating to the Group Code of Conduct, anti-corruption, sanctions, money laundering and the fight against fraud as well as for designing training documents, presenting training courses and monitoring compliance through spot checks. The GCO maintains a whistle-blower hotline and is responsible for the group-wide fight against fraud.

Further, we believe that collaboration with business partners along the value chain is core in fostering more responsible business conduct in the industry. It is through such partnerships that we can add value to our services, differentiate from our competitors and constantly meet growing stakeholder expectations for more sustainable services. In a joint effort, the Kuoni/UEFA Supplier Code of Conduct was introduced to all accommodation suppliers of the UEFA EURO 2016 in 2015, where the Global Travel Services (GTS) Division acts as the official Accommodation Agency. A monitoring system has been set up to assess the sustainability performance of Kuoni/UEFA EURO 2016 suppliers by way of an online self-assessment.

We have further collaborated with UNICEF and other businesses to assess the impact travel and tourism might have on children’s rights in Vietnam. Local representatives from Global Travel Distribution (GTD) Division as well as Kuoni Group’s subsidiary Asian Trails in Vietnam played a crucial role in bringing the business perspective to the study.

Progress has been made in other areas as well. VFS Global has successfully completed three years of ISO 14001 certification and will undergo recertification in year 2016. At the 17th World Congress on Environment Management held in New Delhi, India in July 2015, VFS Global garnered the prestigious Golden Peacock Environment Management Award within the services category. Continuing our long-term commitment and collaboration with the offsetting organization myclimate, the Kuoni Group has again supported Gold Standard projects in Bali, Kenya and India, offsetting all business travel undertaken by employees of VFS Global and the corporate headquarters in Zurich in 2015.

I am proud that our efforts are being recognised by external stakeholders such as Oekom Research and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Oekom Research, one of the world’s leading rating agencies in the field of sustainable investments, has again recognised the Kuoni Group with the rating C+ in February 2016, putting our company in the “Prime” category. Of the “Prime”, Kuoni Group was rated as the “most sustainable travel company”. The CDP has named Kuoni Group as Sector Leader in the Germany, Austria and Switzerland region in 2015.

I am excited about the planned takeover of Kuoni Group by private equity company EQT as the new owner, above all because a sustainable approach to investment and ownership has been part of EQT’s DNA from the start. The new ownership will allow us in each business division to continue aspiring to apply best practices, mitigate risks and capture opportunities for long-term value creation and competitiveness.