Did you know that commuting to work accounts for around a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions from transport? That’s a whopping 18 million tonnes of CO2e each year and 5% of the UK’s total emissions!
It should come as no surprise that one of the reasons for this is the high number of commuting journeys made by car or van - 68% of commutes in Great Britain are made this way.
If the world is to keep global heating to well below 2°C as agreed under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, big reductions in emissions are needed. To support this mission, many countries have set targets to become net zero. Reducing emissions from transport, including commuting, will play an important part in ensuring these goals are achieved.
In the UK, the Government estimates that emissions from transport will need to fall by 22-33% by 2030 in order to be on track to achieve net zero by 2050. To make this possible, many of us are going to need to find more sustainable ways of getting to and from work. Many businesses are now realising they have the power as well as a responsibility to help their staff do this!
Up until recently, most greenhouse gas reporting by businesses has focused on Scope 1 emissions - those released directly by your business e.g. from burning petrol in company vehicles or gas in boilers; and Scope 2 emissions - those released through the generation of electricity and other energy your business buys. However, you’ll be hearing plenty more about Scope 3 emissions from now on!
Scope 3 emissions are all other emissions released as an indirect consequence of your business's actions. This includes, but is not limited to, emissions from:
the goods and services your business buys
waste you produce
business travel e.g. by public transport or airplane
and… drum roll please… staff commuting!
Combined, Scope 3 sources usually make up the largest proportion of a business's emissions, yet are often the most challenging to reduce due to not having direct control over them. Despite this, your business can often exert considerable influence over them and therefore does have the power to reduce them.
In order to make sure your business is doing everything it can to reduce its impact, Scope 3 staff commuting emissions cannot be ignored!
Businesses are fast learning how their environmental credentials now play an increasing role in attracting the best staff to come and work for them.
Many people now expect their employers to be taking steps to reduce emissions, including supporting low-carbon ways of getting to work such as cycling. The introduction and expansion of clean air zones in many cities also means that driving a polluting car to work is quickly becoming both environmentally and financially unsustainable.
Add to this the fact that customers are becoming more conscious about how the products and services they buy impact the environment, and it quickly becomes clear that not taking carbon reduction seriously is a big business risk.
Not only are staff and customer expectations and demands changing, but so are Government policy and legislation.
Since April 2022, it's been mandatory for UK listed companies or non-listed companies with over 500 employees or £500m in turnover to report on emissions in line with the recommendations of the international Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). This includes reporting on Scope 3 emissions such as staff commuting, where appropriate, for example where they make up a significant proportion of overall emissions - likely to be the case for many businesses.
Although it's not yet mandatory for most businesses to report on Scope 3 emissions, this is likely to change as we get closer to 2050 - in fact many businesses already voluntarily report these emissions.
It might be tempting to do nothing and wait, however businesses that aren’t proactive now are likely to be unprepared when new regulations are brought in, making them high-risk to investors.
Not only are governments around the world setting targets to become net zero, but many businesses are choosing to do this as well.
These net zero targets need to be aligned with climate science, as defined by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). All long-term targets logged with SBTi must include a 90-95% reduction in Scope 3 emissions, and this is also the case for near-term targets if Scope 3 makes up 40% or more of a business's total emissions - the case for most companies.
Reducing emissions from staff commuting can make a serious contribution to achieving such targets.
Many businesses are increasing their expectations of other companies they do business with, such as by adding sustainability metrics into procurement decision-making criteria, and asking their existing suppliers to demonstrate they’re taking action to become net zero. This may include asking them to set science-based targets.
The UK Government already requires any company bidding for major government contracts to commit to becoming net zero by 2050, measure Scope 3 emissions including from staff commuting, and publish a plan for how to achieve it.
Woah, that’s a lot to take in! Let’s simplify this a bit and consider some key steps your business can take to reduce its staff commuting emissions.
1. Baseline your emissions from staff commuting. What’s not measured, can’t be improved! Whilst calculating Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions is relatively straightforward with many free tools available online, Scope 3 emissions aren’t always as easy. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol has produced some guidance on how to calculate staff commuting emissions. It’s often best to get the help of a consultancy for this, who will carry out a travel survey of your staff as part of a wider baselining exercise for your business’s entire operations.
2. Invest in workplace cycling infrastucture. There’s not much worse than arriving at work hot and sweaty after a bike commute, with nowhere to wash and change. Installing showers at your workplace, as well as safe and secure cycle storage can help encourage more people to swap their car for handlebars!
3. Provide financial support for commuting by bike. Help your employees overcome any financial barriers they have to taking up cycling - the most obvious way you can do this is by joining a workplace cycle-to-work scheme such as Cyclescheme.
4. Sign your business up to Love to Ride! Finally but most importantly, your staff will need plenty of encouragement and support on their journey from potential cycling newbie to becoming a regular rider. People often start with vastly different levels of experience, knowledge and confidence, and face different barriers along the way. Love to Ride’s online encouragement platform and behaviour change model recognises this and provides all of the tools and help staff need, as well as stats to help your business track its progress.
Get in touch to learn more about how we can help! Love to Ride's Charley is looking forward to chatting with you: firstname.lastname@example.org