Greener staff travel for SMEs
Shared transport schemes like car clubs and bike share are the key to SME decarbonisation plans, as they can contribute directly to cleaner air and better health, while also bringing other key benefits, including reduced costs. Richard Dilks, chief executive of Collaborative Mobility UK, explains further
There is no route to achieving the UK’s Net Zero ambitions that doesn’t involve a dramatic cut in transport emissions.
Domestic transport is still today the largest source of UK emissions, with the main source being the use of private cars.
Reaching net zero by 2050 will require the decarbonisation of transport – and everyone needs to play their part, from national government to local government, and from employers to individuals.
Many SMEs across the country want to take action, and their staff also increasingly demand it.
Shared transport schemes like car clubs and bike share are the key – this can contribute directly to cleaner air and better health, while also bringing other key benefits including reduced costs.
For employers, the most obvious benefit is cost – particularly for grey fleet travel, for which
employees are typically reimbursed at 45 pence per mile.
Understanding business travel
Before considering shared transport options, organisations may want to gain a greater understanding of how employees are currently travelling for business trips and commuter journeys.
There are several ways to do this, but two common starting points are analysing current grey fleet travel and conducting a staff travel survey.
Different shared transport options are available to organisations to make business travel and employee commutes more sustainable, which I will outline later in this article. But simply providing alternative forms of transport will not be effective by itself.
Without help to make the switch, employees are likely to stick to current ways of travelling.
Some organisations try to overcome this by providing information, such as leaflets, posters, and communications at team meetings, in the hope that this will create the desired change. This can be a good starting point, but studies have shown that simply providing information is rarely effective.
Our suggested approach to making a successful behaviour change campaign works has four steps.
Planning for change
Organisations should start by being clear about the target behaviour that they want to address.
Make this as specific as possible, as this makes the rest of the process more straightforward, reduces the risk of competing priorities, and allows for better impact evaluation.
Key questions help identify a specific target behaviour on which to focus including what needs to change?
Where is the behaviour performed? Is it location specific? When is the behaviour performed? And finally, who will be the intervention target?
Campaigns could be focused on groups such as new starters, a specific department, or employees that live within a certain radius of their place of work.
Another consideration could be employees’ access to other forms of travel, such as private transport or private car ownership. People’s motivations and ability to change will be different depending on their personal circumstance. It is vital to account for individual differences when planning interventions.
There are a wide range of interventions available to organisations to support the deployment of shared transport. For example, a business could trial shared travel days or a week of action to encourage people to change for a short period, which can help facilitate a longer-term switch.
Make using shared transport the path of least resistance, for example through automatic or opt out membership of shared transport such as the organisation’s pool car scheme.
Where grey fleet must be used, ensure policies are in place to encourage ride sharing, control reimbursement, and mandating minimum standards for vehicles.
Another intervention could be to provide preferential parking, such as bays near the workplace entrance, for employees sharing trips or vehicles.
Organisations could also reduce the total number of parking spaces, with guaranteed space for ride sharers and a restriction on the number of days per week that someone can park on site if not ride sharing.
Companies which have brought about the desired change in behaviour and reduced parking pressures at their site have done so by providing incentives to employees to share the ride to work, giving priority parking spaces to ride sharers and offered a taxi home to employees in case of an emergency, while also significantly restricting parking for lone drivers.
At Arup in Solihulll, for example, the combination of these measures led to 83 per cent of staff signing up to the Liftshare platform and over 50 per cent regularly sharing the ride to work.
Stakeholder mapping and engagement
After choosing an intervention, organisations should then consider who the key stakeholders will be in relation to a particular intervention, and assess the extent to which they might influence or have an interest in the proposed change. The results can be used to inform a communications plan and help prioritise resources.
Finally, organisations should measure and monitor behaviour change interventions against financial, environmental and individual metrics to understand the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different measures.
For financial evaluation, calculate the capital and operational cost to the organisation for providing shared transport, and compare these to
costs previously incurred.
For environmental evaluation, recalculate the emissions associated with business travel and commuting journeys.
For individual evaluation, assess employees’ satisfaction with the availability and use of shared transport for business trips and commute journeys.
Different types of shared transport
The most obvious form of shared transport is car sharing. Car clubs are pay-as-you-drive schemes which allow members (individuals or organisations) to book vehicles for the time that they are needed, from as little as one hour, and pay only for the hire time and the distance driven. Members typically pay an annual fee to join the scheme and a per hour and a mileage charge to hire a vehicle.
Scheme operators cover running costs such as insurance, tax, fuel, cleaning, and servicing. Businesses can become corporate members which allows their employees to book car club vehicles for work trips.
Another option available to businesses is to introduce pool cars – a fleet of vehicles provided by an organisation for use by staff for work trips.
Ride sharing, lift sharing or carpooling is increasingly popular, which simply refers to sharing a journey – usually by car – with at least one other person.
Ride sharing is often organised informally between employees who share a similar commute to save money and for social benefits. However, there are ride sharing platforms that can be used by organisations which now make it easier for people to find and share rides with colleagues and neighbours.
Bike and e-bike sharing schemes work in similar ways to car clubs and pool car schemes. They provide users with access to bikes when they need them, for the time they need. As with cars, an organisation can either provide staff with membership of an existing shared bike scheme run by a private sector operator, or it can procure and manage its own fleet of bikes.
The introduction of these schemes has already produced major benefits for some employers. Siemens cut travel costs by 28 per cent by introducing a car club, and The Pump House in Nottingham brought in a fleet of e-bikes to reduce car use for short journeys. Bookings increased by around 50 per cent through 2019-20 as staff became more familiar with the e-bikes and more confident using them.
In a post-Covid environment as more people return to the workplace, employers across the county have a clear opportunity to do things differently. We want to capitalise on this by giving organisations the tools to re-think business and employee travel to help cut emissions, cut costs, and benefit employees.
Richard Dilks is the chief executive of CoMoUK, which is helping the UK transition to integrated mobility solutions designed for the public good.