How to reduce fleet carbon footprint

Governments and businesses are putting and increasing effort onto reducing their impact on the environment.  Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is high on executive’s agendas not just from a public relations perspective but also to make their organisation attractive from a commercial perspective.  Legislation is impacting both at a European and Global level to ensure countries reduce the impact of their activities on the environment.

Transport is seen as a very important component towards a more sustainable future.  There are now specific targets in place both for vehicle manufacturers and governments which are increasing the rate of decline in vehicle emissions.

Organisations looking to reduce transport emissions from their fleet can use our strategic framework focusing on the vehicle, driver and journey.

The Vehicle

Environmental policies should be fundamentally based on the vehicles which are used for travel.  This includes any company operated vehicles but also those private vehicles which employees use for business travel, commonly known as the grey fleet.

A typical vehicle emits 10% of its lifetime CO2 emissions during the production process and 5% during the recycling of parts at the end of its life.  This leaves the remaining 85% of CO2 emissions which take place as the vehicle is “in-life”.

The selection of vehicles with a highly efficient operating cycle is key to managing emissions down.  There are a number of considerations to ensure the correct vehicles are utilised. They include:

  1. Policy Capping – Introduce a maximum CO2 cap
  2. Whole Life Cost or Total Cost of Ownership – Using whole life cost as the basis for vehicle selection.  As taxation increases with CO2 this encourages employees into more environmentally friendly vehicles. Setting vehicle policy according to whole life cost principals naturally migrates drivers to selecting efficient vehicles without it feeling like this is being mandated by the business.
  3. Alternative Fuels – Using alternative fuels where it is appropriate and effective to do so.  Electric or hybrid vehicles operate best in urban environments. However, for regular motorway travel and for commercial vehicle then clean diesel can still be the right choice for many.  Clean air zones will also impact vehicle selection in cities where it is in operation.  For more information go to:
  4. Vehicle Rightsizing – Selecting vehicles are fit for the intended use, not over sizing, over specifying or overloading.  This is especially relevant for commercial vehicles where over sized vehicles will lead to increased emissions and adds additional running cost.
  5. Operational Cycles – Consider the operating conditions the vehicles will be used in.  Hybrid technology for example, is most effective in urban environments.  Diesel fuelled vehicles are more efficient on motorways and A-roads. Fuelling or charging also needs to be considered.  The public electric charging network is still in its infancy with no universal standard for both charge points and payment.  Where internal charging is to be utilised, is there enough downtime for the vehicle to be charged between uses.
  6. Service and Maintenance – Routine maintenance should be carried out regularly to ensure the vehicle operates to its optimum capability.  Under-inflated tyres, for example, can significantly increase fuel consumption as well as inflict damage on the tyres.

The Driver

Driver engagement in environmental efficiency is crucial to sustained reductions in emissions.  Vehicles need to be driven and maintained incorrectly to maximise efficiency.  Practical steps organisations can use to encourage the culture of environmental responsibility include:

  1. Financial – High emission vehicles both in terms of tax, fuel and depreciation will impact on employees.  This should be highlighted when they come to select a vehicle. Fuel re-imbursement methods and rates should also be set so employees don’t complete unnecessary trips
  2. Training – Employees should be have the skills to use their vehicles effectively.  This is especially important for commercial vehicles or where new technologies are deployed.  Drivers will require different skills to driving a traditional car. Eco-driving is also commonly available and has been proven to reduce driver’s fuel consumption covering any cost involved.
  3. Measurement – Create specific environment performance targets. Targets should be regularly reported and reviewed to senior managers and line management. Driver targets could include measurements around fuel economy, reductions in mileage or avoiding driving at certain times of day in heavily congested areas.
  4. Communications – Environmental performance should be shared with drivers. Issue newsletters and league tables for fuel economy performance.  This helps embed the culture of environmental management within the organisation. A board member should be assigned accountability for the organisations drive to reduce emissions.  Many large businesses now need to report anyway as part of their ESOS obligations.

The Journey

Environment impact only occurs when the vehicle is driven.  Measures to reduce mileage and improve the journey can make a big impact.  There are practical measures which can be introduced to minimise environmental impact:

  1. Alternatives to travel – can a meeting be done using a conference call or video conference instead of the need to travel? Technologies such as net meetings, Skype or web chat can negate the need for additional travel. These technologies have become more broadly accepted as a communications channel especially when set against the environmental context.
  2. Public Transport – the increased use of public transport such as trains, trams and buses can reduce carbon emissions and allow employees to be more productive. A range of Apps have been deployed to make this easier for employees to plan and execute.  As these services develop the mobility as a service (MaaS) offerings will become more widely adopted.  Businesses should start planning how they will integrate this into their overall travel planning and payment arrangements.
  3. Meeting Planning – where meetings are necessary, planning meetings away from busy rush hour periods can significantly increase fuel economy on journeys.  If multiple meetings can be planned in a similar geographical location this can reduce the overall business mileage travelled.
  4. Commuting – Many employees will commute to their office on a daily basis which is an often-overlooked travel category. Remote working where practical is the obvious solution for some companies but is not always possible for all.  Where commuting is necessary new services have emerged to tackle the issue.  Zeelo, Liftshare and ViaVan are some organisations with practical solutions to help manage this population of drivers.  With the expansion of workplace parking levies these transport alternatives will continue to gain traction as the market evolves.

If you would like to know more about how you can practically reduce the impact your fleet and business mobility has on the environment then please contact us.

More information can also be found on the Energy Savings Trust website.