I do think we need to think seriously about the amount of travel we undertake in this sector (see ?Flying in the face of disaster?, Alliance Online, September 2007). I have been struck by the general absence of discussion at conferences in which foundations have challenged themselves and each other about this genuine and uncomfortable dilemma.
As the director of an emerging organization which is trying to reach out to a specifically global constituency and create its own profile, I highly value face-to-face meetings and conferences as an opportunity to interact, both intellectually and socially. Humans are, after all, social creatures and sometimes there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction which, in the world of global philanthropy, invariably means someone hopping on a plane.
Clearly, it has to be about balance, and about exercising judgement about the merits of one international meeting over another, rather than stopping flying altogether. But in the end, I don?t think it?s just about exercising personal discretion. There should be more of a concerted effort to address the issue. A group of foundations could perhaps develop a set of joint principles ? a kind of code of conduct ? or a set of tools on working at a distance. Given the numbers of international conferences that foundations organize and host, the foundation sector as a whole could perhaps use its collective muscle to make its conferences more carbon neutral by looking for venues that practise environmentally friendly policies or by offering incentives to delegates to use modes of transport that emit lower carbon emissions.
Director, Global Fund for Community Foundations