The journey to a sustainable future is a highly important one, not just across Scotland, but across the whole world.

Ahead of the upcoming COP26 meetings being held in Glasgow in November, we are running a weekly blog series exploring the role of technology in achieving net zero with our Technology Scotland members.

Across the coming weeks, we will be hearing from a wide range of our members on a variety of climate focused topics; taking a deep dive into some of the innovative products created to combat climate change with project focused blog pieces as well as thought-pieces where we will hear from industry experts on the future of technology and its potential applications as we move forward towards a more sustainable future. Plus lots more!

This week we hear from Liftshare on their Mobilityways platform, a data-led approach to measuring and managing commuter emissions to support employers to meet their net zero goals.

Technology to tackle commuter emissions and promote sustainable travel among UK’s largest employers

A burgeoning fuel crisis weeks before COP26 feels quite prophetic, highlighting how current commuting habits simply aren’t sustainable. Transport is the UK’s biggest polluter; How we get from A to B has to change, and it has to change quickly.

Thankfully, the launch of the Governments long awaited Decarbonisation Plan, the IPCC report, and of course, with COP26 on the horizon, it feels as if there is growing momentum around the desperate need for decarbonisation – particularly as ‘normal service’ resumes.

Compared to other European countries, the UK is famously car-centric, where two car households outnumber families with 2 children, standing at 5.1 million and 3.2 million respectively. It’s not only the sheer number of cars that’s the problem, but how we use them.

There are 47 million empty seats on our roads every rush hour. Sharing a journey with one other person instantly makes your car twice as efficient and half as expensive, while making space for other road users such as cyclists. For many of us jumping in the car, even for short journeys, is second nature. 60% of journeys of less than 2 miles are made by car when they could just as easily be walked or cycled.

Making unnecessary short trips and driving alone are some of the biggest contributors to localised congestion, poor air quality in our local communities and Co2 emissions which contribute to the lethal impacts of climate change.

It was a fleeting moment when the pandemic saw decades of commuter behaviour change happen overnight, when social distancing required a move to remote working. Researchers from the University of East Anglia estimated national lockdowns reduced global carbon emissions by 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020. This data revealed the extent our daily habits have on the planet – and the latent potential if we changed those behaviours for good.

Unfortunately, a return to some sort of normalcy saw many of us change our travel habits for the worse. The easing of lockdown restrictions and lingering fears over the proximity of shared transport have seen a rise in the purchase of second-hand cars with traffic rising to pre-pandemic levels in some major cities.

As more employers seek to return their workforce to the office, commuting emissions also threaten to undermine the ambitious net zero goals of many organisations. Categorised as Scope 3 emissions, commuting accounts for 5% of the UK’s total emissions -18 billion kg of CO2e annually. Simply put, net zero is unachievable without tackling emissions generated from the commute.

Historically, Scope 3 commuter emissions were difficult to quantify and measure. They are not currently mandatory to report, unlike like their Scope 1 and 2 counterparts, which cover direct and indirect emissions from owned or controlled sources. This is despite mandatory reporting proving an effective means of reducing Scope 1 & 2 emissions in the energy sector; clearly demonstrating ‘what can be measured, can be managed’.

The Mobilityways Platform was developed in lockdown by car-sharing pioneers, the Liftshare Group, as a data-led approach to measuring and managing commuter emissions to support employers meet their net zero goals.

The Platform is a suite of software tools that enables employers to evidence, track, plan and change their commuter emissions. The Platform is the only software solution dedicated to decarbonising the commute. It provides full visibility of commuting challenges and identifies sustainable travel alternatives for employees.

The Mobilityways Platform is uniquely powered by ACEL© (Average Commuter Emissions Level) which is the only standardised methodology for benchmarking and comparing commuter emissions. This allows organisations to track their progress and measure the effectiveness of sustainable travel initiatives.

Launched in May 2021 the technology has experienced early success, serving a number of the UK’s largest NHS Trusts, including NHS Lanarkshire. Michael Simpson, Energy & Environment Officer, NHS Lanarkshire said: “We’re really excited to bring this new platform to NHS staff, not only will it afford those who would like to try commuting more sustainably the information to do so, it will also provide us with a wealth of information we’ve never had before and has already greatly improved our understanding of travel habits across the board.”

“The platform is an evolving piece of work and staff will be able to download their own personalised travel plans based on their home postcode and destination. We’re encouraging staff to complete our quick questionnaire to help us to enhance the robustness of our reports, understand how staff get to work, and promote active travel alternatives wherever appropriate to do so. As COP 26 approaches, we’re thrilled to share this new initiative which is being rolled out NHS Lanarkshire wide later in the year.”

Since launch, 350 employers across the UK have sought to use Mobilityways’ Scoping Smart Mobility tool to gain a better understanding of their local mobility landscape, and the challenges faced by their teams. This is a feature of the Platform that uses anonymised employee postcodes to give detailed insight on what real world sustainable commute options are available for each employee. The Platform generates a detailed Scoping report alongside an interactive map which displays the potential active-travel, public transport and car-sharing opportunities available to each team member.

In total 532,214 individual employee post codes have been analysed using the Scoping Smart Mobility feature. These employees come from organisations ranging in industry and size, from single and multi-site employers, from 200 up to 54,000 employees, covering both public and private sector organisations. The analysis revealed a sustainable travel option was available to just over 95% of the sample, highlighting how our habitual reliance on single occupancy vehicles is both misplaced and unnecessary.

Making sustainable commuting easy, accessible and affordable will be key to supporting workforces and communities to commute back better. Barriers to sustainable commuting are specific to each employer, every site and each individual employee, which is what makes Mobilityways such a powerful tool in capturing and analysing huge amounts of commuting data all in one place. Understanding and addressing these challenges allows employers to tackle commuter emissions at scale to mitigate the impacts of climate change and meet net zero goals.

Discover and compare your regions ACEL with the ACEL map!

Watch the Mobilityways video: