CHANGING the way in which workers travel to, from and for work may not be at the forefront of a business owner’s mind.
That’s perfectly understandable, given the challenges still being thrown up by the global pandemic.
But while Covid has left its mark on every workplace in the UK, the need for companies to reduce their emissions remains as important as it was prior to March 2020.
In fact, with increasingly adverse weather events across the globe, and the UK playing host to the vital COP26 climate summit in November, now is the perfect time for businesses of all sizes to change the way their workers move around. And the pandemic has in some ways opened up new opportunities to make changes.
There are two main ways companies can make a speedy impact; by helping their employees change the way they get to and from the office; and making the vehicles they use while on the job more environmentally friendly.
The organisation I lead, Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK) has introduced a kit that helps employers do just this.
We have done this because shared transport measures – from vehicle and bike-sharing to membership of car clubs – hold the key to a more sustainable future.
The first thing a business must do is identify its goals, establishing what it is about daily practice it wants to change.
That could range from incentivising staff to use more active and sustainable ways of commuting to reducing the amount of parking on site.
Once that has been established, work has to go into assessing the state of play. How many workers use the staff car park? What proportion travel in by their own private vehicles?
That’s essential because it can then inform what intervention a company makes. If too many people are coming to an out-of-town site where public transport links are poor, could management encourage ride-sharing or signing up to a car club?
But simply selecting a solution for this won’t be enough. Workers will have to be persuaded that changing the way they travel will benefit their own lives, too. For instance, ride-sharing would cut on fuel costs, and may even persuade some people to sell their car altogether, enjoying a number of money-saving benefits in the process.
For example, at an Arup business park site in the Midlands, 56% of staff have now shared the commute after a third of on-site car parking bays were dedicated to ride-sharing. That has saved staff around £1.6m in fuel costs in the past two years.
Once this strategy has been decided upon, a plan can be built around it to communicate to staff to make sure any initiative enjoys high take-up and benefits those who are involved.
There are also considerable advantages for companies in making their own car fleets more environmentally friendly.
Take as an example Highland Council in Scotland, which has managed to save a full £900,000 in just one year by using car clubs for business travel instead of funding its own fleet.
By selling off their own cars and signing up with corporate car clubs, organisations would save money and enjoy a higher standard of car. Car club vehicles are far more likely to be new and electric or hybrid.
Most government bodies and councils across the UK have declared an ambition to become carbon-neutral within the next two or three decades.
However, they won’t be able to achieve this without the co-operation of businesses, which depend heavily on their own transportation.
But those firms will only get on board if these greener solutions can be demonstrated to really work, and are of benefit in other ways.
The Covid pandemic may have set some elements of the environmental agenda back somewhat, but it has also presented a golden opportunity for sweeping change.
As people begin to come back to the office and reflect on the way they themselves run their business and personal lives, there is a chance to influence behaviour now.
Implementing shared transport incentives while making a fleet greener won’t just help the environment – it could pay off in terms of staff morale and save some much-needed cash in the process for all concerned.
Richard Dilks, chief executive, CoMoUK