THE MAGAZINE

The Risky Business of Travel

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

One Company’s Approach

W. W. Grainger is a Fortune 500 industrial-supply company based in Lake Forest, Illinois, with offices in Central and South America, China, Canada, India, Japan, and Puerto Rico. Grainger has about 21,000 employees, out of which about 1,500 may travel internationally on business in a given year. Keith Blakemore, CPP, its director of security and loss prevention, says that in the last decade, the company has pursued a robust international growth strategy. It became quickly obvious that “[w]e needed to develop a travel security program.” At that time, the company was using multiple travel agencies to book employee travel, and it had no processes by which to track employees on the ground overseas. The company now maintains select vetted travel agencies for each of the company’s international business locations. Employees must use these agencies to book their flights, hotels, and any other travel.

All itineraries and hotel information are provided to the security group, and the travelers must provide business and personal contact information so that “we have a means to communicate with them if they have a travel emergency or there is a crisis somewhere—whether that would be a terrorist incident or civil unrest or a weather-related disaster,” says Blakemore.

Security compiles a list of high-risk destinations identified by outside intelligence sources. Trips to these locations must pass a special approval process wherein the travel is deemed business essential or critical by a functional vice president and a local country general manager who must both sign off on it. While all aspects of the travel are coordinated through one of the vetted travel agencies, secure ground logistics are coordinated with the security group either by the corporate office or by the company’s security team in that nation.

W. W. Grainger has also established a travel security Web site. Its contents include corporate emergency contacts and travel policies specific to each nation. It also includes education and awareness material, such as what to expect once the employee is at the destination as well as protocols and guidelines to follow if an incident occurs, such as a personal injury or illness, theft, or other act of violence.

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