(Last Updated On: 21st February 2011)

Almost all businesses use transport of some kind, whether it’s to transport products, to meet clients, or for commutes to work. The true environmental impact of your business takes in all these areas.

The cost of the increase in fuel duty alone, by 1p from April, is predicted to cost small businesses £2k over 6 months.

With the price of fuel at the pumps on a steady increase, it doesn’t matter what your views on climate change are, the fact we are reliant on an expensive resource we have very limited control over, is worrying for us all.

I read a surprising statistic: the average petrol car (driver only) is more carbon intensive (i.e. more CO2 emitted per passenger) than a domestic flight.  And unfortunately, my unscientific survey of friends showed:

  • 70% drive a car to work
  • 30% use the train

This is a normal group of 30 – 45 year olds living in urban areas (excluding London). Of my London friends almost all use the underground, bus, cycle, or walk. I’ve lived in London and Tokyo, so have had the luxury of a functioning public transport system. I now live in Brighton and generally cycle, walk, bus or use the train.  I don’t need a car.

My conclusion; we stick to using our cars unless there is a comfortable, regular, safe alternative.  So how can you make the shift?

The first step is to identify your business’ transport needs, which will include asking staff how they get to work and what would make it easier for them to get to work.

There is a strange psychological attachment between a human and their car, so don’t be put off by the initial argument – “it’s alright for you, but it’s not practical for me because …….”

Here are my top tips:

  • Provide bike racks, lockers, showers and even a hairdryer wouldn’t go a miss.
  • Use your business’ voice to negotiate with public transport providers to improve their routes – you could club together with other businesses in the area so they sit up and listen.
  • Likewise for cycle routes – petition the council and your MPs to make improvements.
  • Set up a car share scheme – again, this could be set up with other businesses in your area.
  • Take advantage of the tax benefits of a cycle to work scheme – the business offers all employees an option to borrow a bike to use primarily for journeys to and from work or between workplaces.  Your employee gets access to the bike for free with no tax to pay for the benefit, and the business gets a tax deductable expense via capital allowances for the cost of the bike (speak to your accountant to make sure you set up the scheme correctly).
  • Encourage flexible working – working from home, video conference calls, allowing staff to start/leave at different times to match with bus/train times.
  • Train staff in eco-friendly driving techniques – this will save the business money, save staff money and save CO2 emissions. I’m sure the savings and morale boost will outweigh the cost in the medium term.
  • Train your staff in time management and then don’t overload them with work so that their only option is to grab a taxi to meetings – you’ll end up with happier staff too!
  • If you’re shipping goods, ensure trucks never leave half empty (again be creative about linking up with other businesses), and if you’re in need of an upgrade to your fleet ensure you look into the tax incentives of low emission vehicles.
  • Consider using ‘trackers’ on company vehicles to cut down on unauthorised journeys.
  • Remember it is about making it easier to use alternatives to the car, and all that’s needed is creativity.

The benefits are endless; lower costs, lower emissions, and healthier happier staff.  But if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘I’m too busy running the business to think about this’, ask a member of your team to come up with a Green Travel Plan – it’ll be motivating and expand their skills.

If you have any top tips to reduce the impact of transport on our environment, post them here.

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