Mobility: The Next Driver of Sustainability

written by:
Grace Ho
Published on:
Jul 29, 2021
Credit: Axel Antas-Bergkvist, Unsplash

Companies globally have pledged their sustainability commitments and promised to achieve ambitious goals by 2030. With a runway of less than ten years, meeting some of these bold targets is a tall order. An international survey conducted by OnePoll revealed that only 50 percent of companies with a formal Environmental, Social, and Governance ESG program are confident that their company is performing well against tracked environmental metrics, and the percentage is even less for corresponding social and governance goals. To attain a holistic outcome, organizations can consider pursuing strategies which cover all aspects of sustainability. A comprehensive area to consider is sustainable mobility.

Mobility is an often underestimated but tangible area where employees can take small steps consistently to make a difference. Achieving sustainability goals require a mindset shift which permeates the entire organization, through employees making small but impactful changes in their everyday lives which translate into a collective shift in mindset and behaviors. Through efforts in prioritizing sustainable mobility, we can drive impact in all three pillars of sustainability, encouraging sustainable development, reducing emissions, and preserving resources.

Ensuring Safe and Accessible Mobility

Based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11, sustainable cities and communities exhibit the importance of making human settlements safe, inclusive, and sustainable. Sustainable transport plays a vital role in achieving this goal. Safe and accessible transportation is a right for all, yet inaccessible to many. In the status quo, only half of the world’s population has convenient access to public transport.

Urban mobility options such as ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles could be a viable solution for cities as they increase safety, promote inclusivity, and reduce congestion. Shared mobility has grown rapidly in recent years. Due to lower cost and increased convenience provided by these services, many have shifted from private vehicle ownership to alternatives such as ride-pooling services. This often complements government’ efforts in strengthening mass public transit infrastructures and increasing accessibility to ensure inclusive mobility. For example, in Japan, the declining and ageing population makes it difficult to maintain the local public transportation systems in rural areas. City governments are implementing on-demand bus services to make transportation more accessible to the elderly and better address transport demand.

With an increased uptake in public transportation and rise in shared mobility ridership, air and noise pollution are reduced. These efforts, however, do not run solo as they require cooperation from the public Private sector. Encouraging multimodal transport and arranging for ride-pooling services for employees are ways in which companies can exhibit their commitment to sustainability. It amplifies the message that companies are taking active steps to reduce negative impact they may cause to the larger community. Though this may be an internal practice, such initiatives can inspire employees to seek ways to do the same for a greater good. In the long run, it cultivates a culture of sparking change for society within the organization.

Value-Adding to Organizations

There has been an upward trend of urban mobility options in recent years. Global electric-vehicle (EV) sales increased by nine-fold from 2011 to 2015 and this growth is not slowing. Electrification is not the only trend gaining popularity as we see an increased interest in autonomous vehicles. With autonomous vehicles, there will be better use and allocation of resources. As of 2021, it has been estimated that the global autonomous vehicles market will reach 5.64 million units. Investments in these urban mobility technologies can allow companies to save cost and resources. Incorporating these can decrease companies’ expenditure on fuel, vehicle maintenance, and repair. For example, human capital can be used more efficiently to complete urgent tasks instead of undertaking errands. With the saved cost and preservation of resources, companies can invest the capital into other functions such as research and development to increase productivity.

Perhaps the greatest transformation does not come from how we power our vehicles but rather, how we use them, according to Cleantech Group. Moving the most number of people with the least number of vehicles is most efficient.

It is a common misconception that sustainability and profitability are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, sustainability adds value to organizations, making them more attractive to potential investors. When companies show that their green initiatives extend beyond lowering numbers and are complementary to their commitments, it increases their credibility. This also helps investors and stakeholders understand the business and industry better.

Combating Climate Change

In recent years, scientists have predicted global temperatures will rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius before 2030. There is urgency to switch to sustainable mobility options now to reduce emissions and lower the rise of temperatures. According to Our World in Data (2020), road traffic is a sizable portion of annual emissions and largest for the transportation sector.

Corporations have spent years reducing their scope 1 and 2 emissions which are direct and indirect emissions from operations, respectively. Though useful, it is time to look at other sources which can be significantly reduced. This includes transportation which falls under scope 3. This category consists of other indirect emissions such as employee’s transportation and distribution of products. Often neglected, it remains an important category to dive into. It can propel companies forward, towards achieving their green commitments.

Large corporations in Southeast Asia and Japan have been exploring smart mobility solutions to help with their scope 3 emissions goals. With the penetration of cell phones and data connectivity, the implementation and use of smart mobility solutions is easier than ever. Ongoing analysis and reporting have allowed these companies to easily make constant improvements and measure impact.

In the journey towards reaching carbon neutrality, companies should consider every source of emission. Employers need to encourage and incentivize staff to utilize sustainable modes of transportation. Organizations can look into providing employee transportation or even incentives for those who commute via ride-pooling. With the demand and production of electric vehicles growing, there is also a need for companies to investigate investing in electric fleets.

The Road to Sustainability

The path to sustainability is a multi-dimensional affair where an integrated approach is essential for organizations to succeed in following through with their commitments. With the evolution of mobility technologies, the possibilities are limitless.