The University of Bath will work with global relocation company K2 Corporate Mobility to help it develop and offer more environmentally sustainable relocation packages to business clients moving their employees around the globe.

Following the award of an Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grant, a University of Bath associate will be embedded with the company for two years to create a set of behavioural nudge techniques that encourage clients to opt for more sustainable packaging materials and transport solutions.

The associate will be supported by a team from the University of Bath School of Management, comprising, Dr Iina Ikonen, an expert in consumer psychology and behavioural change and Professor Brian Squire, an expert in the design and management of operations and supply chains for resilience, innovation and sustainability.

“This partnership with the University of Bath will allow us to learn the process of developing, testing and implementing behavioural change techniques to encourage clients towards more sustainable choices. We want to go beyond the simple carbon offsets typically offered across the sector, and introduce innovative measures that directly reduce carbon emissions,” said Chief Executive Officer Nick Plummer.

“This a really exciting project to be partnering with the University of Bath on, that will see us working with them to investigate different aspects of behavioural change techniques. I look forward to the impact this partnership will have on our industry and to seeing us achieve something together that really makes tangible changes,” said Linda Rafferty, Global Head of Compliance and ESG at K2.

Professor Squire noted that recent surveys suggested that the vast majority of companies were focused on environmental objectives but only 5% of individuals were concerned about sustainability during their own relocation. The partnership will aim to close this ‘attitude-behaviour gap’ and design effective behavioural nudges with K2 Corporate Mobility's clients.

“At present, K2 do not have detailed knowledge of what is driving this attitude-behaviour gap nor the methodological skills to investigate and analyse it in a robust manner. We have the expertise and skills to support both the theoretical and data-related aspects of the project and are delighted to put our expertise to use to help the company in its drive to more sustainable relocation options,” Ikonen added.

K2 Corporate Mobility said the global relocation sector was, until recently, largely unconcerned with issues of sustainability but that this attitude was changing rapidly, with over 80% of companies reporting that they will redesign their mobility programmes over the next one to three years to incorporate sustainability goals.

“That means K2 Corporate Mobility will only win new clients and retain existing ones if it can respond to this market change by improving and quantifying environmental credentials. The aims of this partnership are therefore to help Athena improve the environmental performance of its move management services,” Plummer said.

In addition to the KTP, the University of Bath and Athena are collaborating to develop new packaging materials that will reduce the carbon footprint of their service.

The University of Bath, under its Enterprise and Entrepreneurship programme, offers a range of development and collaboration opportunities including support for start-ups, consultancy, access to expert research networks, and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. The K2 Corporate Mobility partnership is being supported by the University’s Business Partnership and Knowledge Exchange managers and dedicated KTP team.

The K2 Corporate Mobility KTP is being funded by UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), through Innovate UK.

The KTP programme aims to stimulate innovation, by providing industry-based training and development of talented university graduates, including postgraduates. Around 70% of associates are offered a post with the company on a permanent basis, following project completion.

Typically, the KTP associate works on a strategic project at a company, varying in length from 12 months to 3 years. An academic supervisor at the University, with relevant expertise to the programme, maintains close involvement with the associate and organisation throughout.