Ten years ago, long before sustainability and the environment became fashionable causes, Europcar opened an “environmental station” in Paris to address climate change. It also became the first car rental company in Europe to offer hybrid and electric cars.
Europcar’s latest ecological initiative, “Green Charter”, sees it become the first European company to be awarded green certification, which is regarded as a major step forward in developing a sustainable business.
Breaking Travel News spoke to Jehan de Thé, Europcar’s Global Marketing Director, to find out more about this ground-breaking initiative and what it means for the travel industry as well as consumers.
BTN: What is the green certificate?
The certification formalises our commitment in favour of sustainable development. Being audited by Bureau Veritas Certification - the world leader in certification of management systems - ensures that Europcar respects all the commitments set in its Green Charter and measures the effectiveness of its initiatives in a transparent manner.
BTN: How will it affect the customer?
Everything we do in terms of sustainable development will affect the customer, either directly and indirectly. Directly, through the opportunity to make “eco citizen” car rental decisions and drive ‘green’ cars, through the choice not to buy a car but instead rent one when needed, and through the possibility to offset their carbon footprint on the environment by using our Carbon Offset programme. Indirectly: by supporting a car rental company which institutes programmes to collect and recycle water, waste and oil-based fluids, and reduce its water consumption.
BTN: How will it affect your business?
More than our business per se, this is likely to have an impact on our relationships with car manufacturers and suppliers, because we are now even more demanding in terms of quality, safety, environment and of course in terms of green vehicles. And for once, in this area we would be happy to have the industry follow our example.
BTN: The definition of “renewable energy” varies from scheme to scheme. What criteria does your certificate use?
You are right to say there is a wide choice and it is not easy to select the best project. We teamed up with Climate Care because it is one of the most respected carbon offset providers, and can therefore help us to make the right choices in this area.
BTN: How does the green certification fit with your business model?
Our business model includes the desire to offer our customers state-of-the-art rental vehicles. The average age of cars in the Europcar fleet is four months, versus 8 years for the average car driven on European roads. Since the newer the model, the cleaner and more efficient the vehicle, our commitment to provide a green fleet fits in well with our business model.
BTN: In business, profit and sustainable rarely go hand in hand - how are you able to combine or balance these seemingly opposing forces?
A long-term commitment to sustainable development is central to Europcar’s business and development strategy. In fact, the company has been renting “green” cars for over 10 years and pioneered in a number of areas. It was the first car rental company in Europe to offer the Toyota Prius hybrid and electric cars, for example. In France, the company has won the “Oxygen Awards” twice for its environmental efforts.
BTN: There is a lot of so-called “green washing” in business, particularly travel. What makes your initiative different and what would you say to combat the cynics?
The process chosen by Europcar to implement our Green Charter is designed to ensure that our measures are real and not just “green washing”. We chose a process involving an external validation committee with partners and stakeholders such as AXA, ALD and easyJet. The first step was for the committee to validate that measures proposed were real and would truly make a difference. Once this had been completed, Bureau Veritas came in to verify that the actions had indeed been implemented and that the desired results were being achieved. Bureau Veritas will continue to control our programme on a yearly basis.
What other key issues or interesting things do you have in the pipeline?
Europcar considers our green programme as an ongoing process. We will continue to add further measures and work on new ideas with our External Committee. The four areas on which we intend to concentrate are:
1. A “green” fleet
2. Fleet maintenance
3. Internal processes
4. Initiatives to raise awareness among customers