5 minute read 21 Feb 2022

An electric car fleet is just the start of the company mobility revolution

By Hendrik Serruys

EY Belgium People Advisory Services Partner

Creative mind and out-of-the-box thinker. Solution-driven and passionate business partner. Addicted to new technologies. Love to wine and dine.

5 minute read 21 Feb 2022
Related topics Future of mobility Workforce

Employers must offer employees flexibility and freedom of choice in order to change the company car culture and drive forward a sustainable mobility strategy.

In brief

  • Flexibility is key to generating support among employees for sustainable mobility
  • One of the remaining obstacles to a greener mobility policy is the entrenched company car culture
  • Current and future generations of employees are ready to embrace shared mobility and the new circular economy

Electric vehicles are all the rage. And companies are racing to ‘green up’ their car fleets. However, that should only be one part of a much wider business ecosystem. And a much deeper conversation between employers and employees on sustainable mobility.

Initiating the sustainable transition

If employers are serious about transiting to a sustainable mobility policy, there are certain basic conditions for success.

One of those is multimodality and flexibility. Employers often offer a single mobility solution for the entire organisation. But it is important for employees to be free to choose a mobility package that meets their needs, at any point in their employment. They may want an electric car or they may want a combination of an electric bike and an annual subscription for public transport. The choice has to be theirs.

Another important condition is change. Everyone in the company needs to be on board for the journey towards sustainable mobility. By grouping employees according to their needs and by finding solutions based on those needs, companies will find that support for change is forthcoming.

Communication is the third and final condition for finding the right sustainable solutions. And it has to be communication in both directions. Whether it’s employers wanting employees to opt for electric or vice versa, the barriers to this transition need to be removed. By, for example, offering to let staff install a charging station at home.

Qualitative data is key

In order to remove the barriers to sustainable mobility, which companies experience or even erect themselves, employers need good quality data. This is vital in order to increasing cross-company awareness and acceptance. If you think of your employees as critical customers, and then collect information about their mobility needs, the solutions will be forthcoming. After all, if you don’t know how far an employee has to commute to work, how can you know whether to offer them an electric car or an electric bike?

Employee surveys are a good means of gathering this data. But only if you first identify your target group. Using the average of a survey of all employees will always result into inaccurate information.

Co-creation is another way of including employees in the mobility narrative. If a company provides the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, whether on site or at an employee’s home, then the employee is far more likely to wake up for work on a Monday morning and choose the planet-friendly option. And they are also much more likely to continue with this mindset into the future.

Creating and tapping into awareness

Any employee who is not aware of the sustainability issue has surely been living on another planet, a much less polluted one, for the last few decades. Our children are even looking at the choices we make and encouraging us to go electric. So, a company can tap into that awareness and empower it. CO2 budgets also allow an organization to sponsor a sustainability initiative whenever an employee opts for a less polluting mobility package. They do the sustainable thing, and they also get to feel good about it.

Changing the culture

In recent years, two of the three major barriers to ‘greening’ the company vehicle fleet have largely been removed. What began as a luxury, only within reach of top executives, has now broadened in scope, so that electric cars for the middle range are now being brought to market by almost every car manufacturer in increasing numbers. The total cost of ownership argument is no longer relevant either. With the right strategy, the cost of electric cars is actually lower than that of traditional cars. After all, in the coming years, not only will diesel and petrol vehicles become increasingly expensive to purchase and run, their radius of action will also be severely curtailed because of city pollution prevention schemes.

So the only remaining obstacle is business culture. But it is a culture that is coming under pressure to change. Employers must be willing to invest in change and employees must be willing to adapt to that change. Even then, going electric is just a small part of the transition.

Ecology and economy

The ideal sustainable mobility strategy looks at the circular approach. When we talk about a business ecosystem, the ‘eco’ refers to economics as well as ecology. Where employer and employee are part of an economic system that includes energy suppliers, the right sustainable choices can be made. Just take the example of electricity companies asking to buy back power from employees.

In the long run, owning a (company) car will become as strange a concept to us as using single-use plastic bags. Employers are already paying a high price in insurance and maintenance for a fleet that is stationary for 98% of the year. It therefore makes sense to move towards a policy of shared mobility. And if the tax advantages for company cars are removed, this paradigm shift could be upon us sooner than we expect.

Adoption of greener mobility alternatives is already highest among young employees, according to a recent survey of EY employees. Sure, there will always be some die-hards who want their own (polluting) car. But a generation of employees who demonstrated in the ‘school strikes for the planet’ is entering the workforce. So, the groundswell of support for this circular economy is going to be stronger and move faster than any of us imagined. Businesses beware! The kids are watching your every move.

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Companies must offer a broad range of flexible solutions to their employees to help them adapt to new-generation sustainable mobility policies. And while ‘greening’ the fleet is an important and interim step, shared mobility and the circular approach have to be the long-term goals.

About this article

By Hendrik Serruys

EY Belgium People Advisory Services Partner

Creative mind and out-of-the-box thinker. Solution-driven and passionate business partner. Addicted to new technologies. Love to wine and dine.

Related topics Future of mobility Workforce