In 2019, over a quarter of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions came from transport – more than any other sector. The biggest contributors to this were cars and taxis, mostly used for commuting. Whilst this fell during 2020 and the pandemic, figures have since risen again. If and how to commute is a personal choice, but infrastructure and incentives can have significant impacts. Read more below about how you can encourage greener commuting.
Cut your commuting emissions by being flexible
The greenest commute is the commute not taken. Whilst some companies allowed hybrid and remote working pre-Covid, uptake has skyrocketed since. Workers often love it because it saves them time and money and gives them a better work/life balance, whilst many companies have found that it both increases productivity and reduces overheads.
If hybrid or remote working isn’t possible for your company (and even if it is), you might also consider flexible working. This allows employees to adjust their start and end times so long as they complete their contracted hours. It can be done on a trust basis, with staff flexing as and when required, or contractually. If adopting the former, it may be worth having key hours when staff are required to work – perhaps 10-3 – and allow flexibility around this.
The environmental benefits of flexible working are that it reduces congestion, as people are travelling during a wider timeframe, whilst also making public transport more desirable as it’s cheaper and less crowed outside of peak hours.
Identify quick wins for greener commuting
There are several low-cost options open to those looking at their commuting emissions for the first time. Most take advantage of partnership opportunities and only need funds for administration.
The Bike2Work scheme and season ticket loans both offer employees fixed monthly payments and tax savings via salary sacrifice. Some car leasing schemes, managed in the same way, offer an array of electric and hybrid cars too.
Car sharing schemes can be either formal or informal. Informal solutions work for smaller companies with smaller footprints and just require encouragement and signposting to free public platforms such as liftshare.com. As coordination, administration and staff surveys become more difficult as a company grows, more formal solutions, such as those provided by Mobility Ways, might prove cost effective and provide the necessary data analysis and reports to show emissions reductions. Either way, participating employees benefit from reduced fuel costs and could also be rewarded with priority parking or free coffee.
Less obvious but not insignificant are the rewards that some company health insurance programmes, such as YuLife, offer to staff for walking or cycling. A company leader board and regular challenges with point boosts can also create a competitive atmosphere which encourages uptake.
Reward sustainable travel and install charge points
Once the low hanging fruit has been picked, some bigger projects can help you to reach the next level of emissions reductions. Those with car parks should consider installing EV charge points which would both allow and encourage employees to go electric. This is especially true if there are only a limited number of spaces, with a majority dedicated to EVs. Government initiatives such as the Workplace Charging Scheme and the new capital allowance announced in April 2021 (known as a “super-deduction”) can help with the upfront costs.
A different tack would be to give direct financial rewards to employees that travel in a sustainable way, whether by EV, public transport, foot or other self-propelled means. This is usually well-received by staff and can be an effective way to change behaviour. One way to do this is to provide a fixed monthly allowance to staff that apply, acting as both a reward for going green and partial compensation for the potential costs of doing so.
Make sure people know how they can commute in a greener way
No matter how good your facilities or your benefits, staff won’t use them if they don’t know about them. Make sure to regularly shout about what you’ve got, what you’re doing and how staff can get involved. Celebrate cycle to work day by hiring a bike repair service and inviting employees to bring in their old bikes for a free revamp, or share stories of those that bike mega distances to get in and are willing to help others to do the same. Signpost to useful facilities around the building, such as bike sheds, showers and lockers, and give directions to the nearest public transport stops and stations. And make your benefits clear and easy to access to encourage uptake.
Once you’ve let people know what’s available, make sure to emphasise the potential cost savings, the health benefits and the environmental benefits of green and active travel too. If you aren’t already, carry out an annual Travel Survey to ask staff about their commuting habits and share the results.
The more regularly you talk to staff about commuting, the more they’ll consider it in their day to day lives. The more you highlight the environmental cost of travel, the more they’re able to make informed decisions about their actions.
The impact of greener commuting on Good Energy’s carbon emissions
Good Energy began tracking our carbon footprint in 2017, using travel surveys to calculate commute method and mileage. In that first year, we discovered that commuter emissions made up 70% of our total company footprint.
Since 2017, we’ve implemented almost all of the initiatives above and more besides. By 2021, commute mileage had dropped 93% and the percentage of individuals using green travel methods had increased from 29% to 46%. Commuter emissions now make up just 20% of total company emissions, though it should be noted that we also started tracking new Scope 3 emissions sources during this time.