3 mar 22

How employers can encourage greener commuting

A new study highlights the active role that employers have to play in order to encourage employees to use active and shared travel options for both commuting and business travel.

Greener transport is high on corporate agendas as staff start to return to workplaces after the pandemic, with carbon dioxide from business travel contributing to companies’ Scope 1 greenhouse gas reporting, and commuting adding to Scope 3 totals.

The academic research by Imperial College London found that access to a mobility hub at work can encourage staff to use active and shared travel options more frequently.

Bike and car share

Over a four-month trial, the researchers found that employees who were offered free access to a bicycle as an alternative to their own private car increased their total number of cycling journeys by 15% to the point where trips by bike accounted for more than half (52%) of all journeys.

Introducing a workplace car club persuaded 38% of employees to start cycling to work, giving them confidence that a vehicle was available during the day if required.

The trial mobility hub was based at Imperial’s campus in London, and featured electric and hydrogen Enterprise Car Club vehicles and 25 Brompton folding bikes including five electric bikes. 

Jonny Jackson, an Imperial College London research student, said: “This is the first field trial that explores the real-world impact of mobility hubs on how people commute to work, and how they travel while at work.

“It indicates there is significant employee support for more active and sustainable modes of travel, as long as people have the security of access to a car or a bike when they really need one for a journey. We were especially interested to observe that many of those taking part in the trial were planning to continue to commute by bike or another active travel mode, and that they were open to paying for car club usage on campus.”

Overall, active travel (walking, cycling and running) accounted for 65% of journeys during the trial, as employees gained confidence in having a bike or car available to use at work if they needed daytime transport.

Ben Lawson, Vice President for Mobility for Europe at Enterprise, adds: “This trial provides us with the first data-led evidence that workplace mobility hubs can encourage shared and active travel among employees, both for business trips and the commute. 

“Providing more active and zero-emission transport options can help organisations to guide their employees to the most sustainable travel choice and encourage them to leave a higher-emission privately-owned car at home. It is another example of how transport hubs that provide a range of zero-emission shared options for employee travel can shape a better future mobility ecosystem.”

Net zero and commuting

A report published last year by the business organisation, the CBI, and KPMG, said employers have to take greater responsibility for the emissions generated by staff commutes by factoring them into corporate net zero strategies. It advised companies to make workplaces more supportive of active travel, by offering changing facilities, and said employers should offer incentives for employees to use public transport as well as shared and active travel options.

Richard Threlfall, Global Head of Infrastructure at KPMG, said: “As COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, employees are reconsidering where they work and how they commute – giving employers a unique window of opportunity to reduce the impact of these journeys on the environment.”

4 areas of focus

Businesses looking to change employees’ commuting habits should focus on four key areas, according to Hendrik Serruys, Partner in EY Belgium People Advisory Services.

  1. Offering sustainable and reliable travel alternatives to employees.
  2. Provide continuous motivation to employees to use alternative modes of transport. Some Mobility as a Service apps include push notifications to keep users aware of cleaner travel options.
  3. Offer financial incentives to employees to use active and shared transport, potentially sharing some of the savings from lower fuel and parking costs.
  4. Create awareness around the positive impact on both the environment and on employees’ health when choosing environmentally-friendly means of travel.

“In order to see a fundamental shift in the commuting behaviour of their employees it is important for companies to focus on all four drivers. Moreover, this transformation will take time and not happen overnight. Therefore, instead of trying to onboard everyone from day one, employers would be wise to identify different groups in their organisation and focus on employees that are proactively willing to change,” said Serruys.


Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Jonathan Manning