Interview: Stéphane Vallageas, Global Lead Buyer, Capgemini

Stéphane Vallageas, Global Lead Buyer of Capgemini, was awarded a Luoma Award at the GBTA Europe event

What do you remember from the GBTA Europe conference organized in Brussels, and especially from the first Sustainability Summit?

Stephane Vallageas – Sustainability is a crucial objective for the majority of companies in 2023. GBTA Europe therefore absolutely had to position itself in this movement. The event went very well, with high quality speakers and in particular the representatives of the European Commission. The feedback is therefore very positive, with an audience that responded and good representation. We knew a lot of things, I learned some of them, but the problem that we see on our scale of travel purchases is only part of the problem, and the actions are on scales well beyond ours.

Precisely, how do you deal with this problem within your company?

Stephane Vallageas – Sustainability is part of my purchasing scope. I look very closely at the service providers we work with, their net zero strategy, on an SBTi (Science-based Targets initiative) basis. We are aligned with standards, because a carbon footprint must be audited, and therefore auditable, with validated, recognized certifications. We have also set goals that do not wait for the 2050 deadline, and other intermediate goals. The reputation of the company is at stake, it also concerns customers, shareholders… Sustainability is a theme that is close to my heart on a personal level, these are values ​​that are dear to me. I am therefore all the more attentive to the service providers with whom we work to ensure that this is the best in terms of sustainability.

Do you have suitable tools in this sector?

Stephane Vallageas – No. Today, there are tools that feed back information, but our problem as a buyer is the inaccuracy of these data. They certainly deserve to be there. But what we want is reliable data. and it’s still far from perfect. There are new players coming out of new methodologies, like IATA in air transport, or the methodology ofAdvito, ISO certified. The methods differ, the results too… We are working with our agency and our booking tool (OBT) to ensure that the data is much more reliable. Because in the end it is the traveler who must make a choice and we must succeed in empowerso that it is not guided only by the price but also by thecarbon footprint of his trip depending on the different options available. This is’bring the traveler to be an actor of this change. And for that, we have to be able to provide them with the right data. For example, it is often assumed that a direct flight should have less impact, but this is not always the case. Reliable data is therefore needed so that we, buyers, can choose the right service providers, but above all for the traveler, because ultimately it is he who “presses the button”.

Shouldn’t we be more restrictive with business travelers, with stricter travel policies?

Stephane Vallageas – You have to look at the reason for the trip, its relevance, its duration. Is going back and forth during the day for a one-hour meeting justified? We’ll have to learn to travel differently. This may be a positive consequence of the health crisis: many people have realized that it is possible to continue to work without moving. That’s not ideal, because a lot of things will never get done through a screen. But people have found a new balance between personal and professional life. The new generations are less inclined to travel, they ask themselves more the question: “Do I need to travel?” “. And it’s a good question, a question that we are now integrating into travel policies.

A question that new technologies could solve? Could artificial intelligence distinguish essential travel from superfluous travel?

Stephane Vallageas – Before a trip, we say to ourselves “I have to travel to know my client, my service providers”. By moving there is something else that happens, which will allow things to be finalized. And that, these affinities which can exist between human beings, artificial intelligence will never be able to quantify it, it is a concept which will fortunately remain specific to humans, at least for some time I hope!

What about inflation? How to manage purchases in this pricing context? Does it mean traveling less?

Stephane Vallageas – This is the question that the vast majority of buyers ask themselves. The figures mentioned by the Minister of the Economy are completely disconnected from what we are experiencing in reality. We are talking about inflation at 5 or 6%. As far as we are concerned, in the airline sector for example, between the beginning and the end of 2022 on tickets in Europe, the impact on prices is around 20%. We are also experiencing the catch-up effect, which should calm down. But we are worried about next year and we are all trying to find what lever it is possible to activate. Today it is complicated. In L’hotelthem negotiated rates can be under control. In L’air, negotiations with airlines are mostly about discounts. This is not enough to contain the soaring prices. We are therefore in the process of studying the means at our disposal to limit this overspending, this explosion of budgets. This will indeed involve traveling less, being more selective, grouping together several appointments. We will also play on theanticipation reservations. Today the majority of travel policies are based on a booking at -14, we will encourage travelers to be more forward-looking, perhaps by doubling this period. We’ll have to travel differently. It’s a bit like traveling in an electric car, which involves planning your trip more according to charging requirements. In any case, we don’t really have any levers to lower costs, we are dependent on something that is beyond us, with inflation, the law of supply and demand, staff shortages, pilots. We have no control over it, we just try to limit the breakage as much as possible. We are coming out of a complex period, we are entering a new era which is not simple… This is also what makes this profession fascinating. Among the different categories of purchases that I have had to manage, business travel is the most dynamic, the most changing.

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Interview: Stéphane Vallageas, Global Lead Buyer, Capgemini