16 Mar 21

How to overcome the complex road to CO2 neutral mobility

“CO2 neutral” or “Net Zero” are examples of how companies translate their sustainability strategy into a catchy, but highly conceptual slogan. The reality of sustainability however is complex and requires a combination of different initiatives running in parallel. One thing is certain: mobility will play a role.

Sustainability has now made it to the top of the agenda of the entire corporate fleet value chain; OEMs comply with the European regulations and, consequently, propose an increasing number of low/no emission vehicles. Also, the corporate client, incentivized by tax regulations, has adopted corporate strategies in favor of reducing carbon footprint.

In addition, on country and even more on city level, emissions are becoming a trigger for convenience or additional cost; low emission zones, low emission lanes and city taxes are good examples.

Finding the common denominator

The first struggle for the corporate client is to find a way out of the diversity of imperatives and break down the complexity into manageable actions that deliver maximum result. Today, the common denominator seems to be “reducing vehicle emissions”, as it hits most of the objectives: carbon footprint, taxation and city regulations.

Practically, emissions have an HR component as well as a supporting procurement and finance component: CO2 emissions are defined on policy level, executed via OEM tendering and integrated into TCO calculations; the acceptance level of the CO2 metric is high.

Get rid of all cars

A common misconception, and unfortunately an increasingly loud voice at board meetings, is that replacing all cars with cash allowances would solve the issue. This is, for so many reasons, and for the lack of better wording, naïve and wrong. It essentially moves the problem from the employer to the employee and, in addition, increases the employee’s tax load.

On the other side of the spectrum, a full transition from car to mobility could be considered. Even if, from a futureproofing point of view, it is the right thing to do, it is also unrealistic: the supply chain is unable of delivering a comprehensive solution and, as long as employees will see mobility as a downgrade from the company car, it doesn’t make much sense from a benefit point of view either.

Calculating the mobility potential

As for mobility, it has a lot of potential when part of a sustainability strategy, and only when it is accepted that mobility works well when it replaces certain trips rather then replace a vehicle. If your employee is based in city-center London and needs to visit a client in city-center London, it doesn’t make much sense for the employee to take a car. This seems to be a straight-forward example, but it’s also the start of a successful mobility strategy.

A correct analysis of the utilisation of company cars will deliver the answer to the following questions:

  • How many kilometers of car utilization can be replaced by mobility alternatives?
  • Which mobility alternatives have the best potential to successfully replace car kilometers?

Work location flexibility

The pandemic has taught us to work from home and surveys demonstrate that we like it; consequently, we can expect Working From Home to become some sort of a standard moving forward. What companies are doing, from a statistical point of view, is creating a new variable for commuting by doubling the number of work locations per employee: they work from the office or from home.

This is good progress compared to what employees have been experiencing since the industrial evolution, but somewhat of a missed opportunity at the same time:

  • Working From Home is not an option for everyone: young employees might live in small or shared apartments, young parents might have kids running around, singles might feel isolated and some people simply don’t operate well without social interaction.
  • Your Western-European employees might have enough space at home and a fast internet connection, but this is not necessarily true for your employees in other countries.

Sustainability strategies need to be scalable, hence the importance of extending “Working From Home” to “working from a variety of locations,” such as home, indeed, but also flexible office space and, why not, Starbucks, hotel lobbies or any other space. Only by multiplying the number of work locations alongside the number of transport modes, the full potential of a sustainability policy can be achieved.

The soft factor: Employee

The final, but perhaps the most important element of a sustainability strategy is employee behaviour. If your employees use their PHEV correctly, it will consume less. If they decide to take a bicycle to work, emissions go down. Educating employees and putting the correct incentives in place, is essential and delivers the best ROI of all sustainability projects. Behaviour can be regulated partially through policy, influenced by gamification and punishment/reward.

But employees are also capable of doing what no policy of technology can do: assessing the impact of their choice. This element of human psychology, understanding purpose, is the key to a successful mobility and sustainability strategy, hence these final words: make sure that your employees are on board and you’ll realise the full potential of your strategy.

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Yves Helven