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12 September 2023

Enabling more sustainable commuting: paving the way to Scope 3 emission reduction

by Dr Ian Murdey, Project Manager at GO Travel Solutions

In an era where the urgency of addressing climate change is increasingly apparent, the corporate world is awakening to its responsibility to curb emissions.

Many organisations focus on reducing their direct operational emissions (Scope 1) and energy-related emissions (Scope 2), but a significant piece of the emissions puzzle often remains overlooked: Scope 3. These are emissions that are not produced by the organisation itself, but by those with whom it has an indirect responsibility. For example the supply chain, business travel, and employee commuting.

Emissions originating from the daily commute of employees constitute a substantial portion of a company's carbon footprint. To truly champion sustainability, businesses should proactively encourage more sustainable commuting within the workplace. By doing so, they can pave the way to substantial Scope 3 emission reductions and foster a greener, more responsible corporate culture.

Where to start?

Creating and implementing a travel plan is a good starting point! A travel plan is a set of actions and initiatives that promote sustainable travel and reduce reliance on single-occupancy (driver only) car journeys.  It consists of a package of measures aimed at enabling staff and visitors to lower their car reliance by reducing the need to travel whilst promoting cycling, walking, public transport, and car sharing. 

The plan sets targets and measures to ensure that the objectives of the plan are achieved and that it remains successful over the longer term.

A Top 10 of what can be included (not exhaustive!)

  1. Flexible work arrangements: Enabling alternative work arrangements such as remote work or flexible hours can dramatically reduce the need for employees to commute daily. Not only does this cut down emissions, but it also enhances employee satisfaction, work-life balance, and overall productivity. Embracing remote work as a long-term strategy can create a win-win situation for both the environment and the workforce.

  2. Investment in active travel infrastructure: Building and promoting walking & cycling infrastructure is a tangible way to encourage employees to opt for sustainable commuting. Installing lockable bike storage, showers, and changing facilities for pedestrians, runners, or cyclists can make active travel a more feasible option. Furthermore, businesses can consider offering incentives such as tax-free schemes for purchasing bicycles or cycling gear, showcasing their commitment to greener mobility.

  3. Carpooling and ride-sharing initiatives: Carpooling and ride-sharing among employees can significantly reduce the number of vehicles on the road and in the car park. There are a number of existing ride-sharing websites and apps which you can join to help facilitate this. Offering dedicated parking spots for ride-sharers and incentives such as priority parking or reduced permit costs can further encourage the adoption of shared transportation.

  4. Sustainable travel incentives:  Staff benefit packages such as SmartGO ( can provide your employees with discounts at cycling retailers or public transport providers.

Offering a free support kit e.g. inner tubes, locks, and reflective clothing can help support bike users and taster bus tickets can help people try trains and buses for the first time.

Implementing a rewards program that recognises and appreciates employees who adopt sustainable commuting practices can instil a sense of pride and motivation. From "Sustainable Employee of the Month" awards to tangible rewards like gift cards or extra paid time off, these incentives can create a sense of camaraderie and competition around sustainability.

  1. Alternative business travel arrangements: reducing the need for employees to travel to meetings by car, for example by encouraging and supporting rail travel, also reduces the expectation for some staff to drive their commute because of the requirement to have a car at work.

  2. Awareness campaigns: Education plays a crucial role in fostering behavioural change. Launching awareness campaigns that highlight the environmental impact of commuting emissions, along with success stories of employees who have adopted sustainable commuting practices, can inspire others to follow suit.
  1. Carbon offsetting programs: For those employees who must commute using traditional vehicles, offering carbon offset programs can be a way to neutralise the emissions generated. This can involve supporting reforestation projects, renewable energy initiatives, or other verified carbon offset projects that align with the company's values.

  2. Staff travel surveys: an annual staff travel survey helps to assess how your employees travel now and what initiatives would help enable positive behaviour changes. It can also highlight which initiatives are the most successful and which need more work.

  3. Leadership by example: Top-down commitment is vital. When leadership actively demonstrates their dedication to sustainable commuting, it sends a powerful message throughout the organisation. Executives can lead by example, showcasing their own use of walking, cycling, public transport, or car sharing.

  4. Integration into corporate culture: Making sustainable commuting a cornerstone of the corporate culture ensures that it becomes a fundamental part of how the company operates. It can be integrated into the company's mission statement, values, and even performance evaluations, reinforcing its importance.

Encouraging sustainable commuting within the workplace requires a multi-faceted approach that aligns with the company's values, employee needs, and environmental goals. By fostering a culture of sustainability and providing the necessary tools and incentives, businesses can play a pivotal role in reducing Scope 3 emissions due to commuting. Through these efforts, companies not only contribute to a healthier future but also set a precedent for other organisations to follow suit. The journey toward a sustainable commute is a path to a more sustainable world, one that businesses can help pave by taking meaningful actions today.

Interested in finding out more? Need help with your travel plan? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. today!