The best way to motivate employees to embrace sustainability initiatives is to link them to either the company’s bottom line or to the driver’s own personal benefits. The danger to corporate green edicts that don’t make this connection is that they sometimes backfire into driver disinterest. In fact, the No.1 reason corporate sustainability programs are not “sustainable” is due to driver noncompliance. To make sustainability programs work, you must turn drivers into stakeholders in the program. They must see the benefit to themselves and/or the company. The overwhelming majority of drivers want to do the right thing, but most do not see sustainability as part of their job responsibilities. To have a successful sustainability initiative, you need to develop programs that motivate employees to go green.

For some companies, meeting sustainability goals is not as important as making the quarter’s sales and profits goals. Attempting to introduce sustainability initiatives when corporate near-term performance is paramount makes it difficult to gain full support of user departments.
When developing or reevaluating a fleet sustainability policy, it is important to solicit the participation of all affected departments, such as sales, administration, purchasing, HR, and all vehicle user groups. By involving them in the decision-making process, you increase the likelihood of their buy-in and support of sustainability policies.

At larger, multinational corporations, another problem occurs when corporate green edicts are specified from high above. When the headquarters is in another country, important decisions, such as environmental strategies, are made without proper knowledge of what’s possible in the U.S. market. For instance, it is not uncommon for global fuel-efficiency goals to be established that are impossible to achieve in the U.S.

Multinationals are Strong Green Proponents

A majority of multinational corporations have become strong sustainability proponents and have initiated a variety of sustainability programs, including green fleet initiatives. You need to develop the metrics to track your processes to continually improve your fleet’s sustainability performance. Metrics can modify driver behavior. Your metrics should be shared with your internal customers and suppliers to show them how they can contribute to improving fleet efficiency and make it more cost-effective. The path to convert a corporate mandate of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is to provide every employee with one measurable best practice they can adopt to implement in support of the company’s sustainability program.

Empowering employees is the best way to achieve sustainability goals. For instance, “Green Teams” are an emerging HR best practice that empowers employees to implement their own action plan to achieve sustainable behavior change. Why not do the same with your driver population? Solicit drivers to form a Green Driver Team for their input and recommendations on how to accomplish corporate green fleet goals.
When striving to modify driver behavior, there are fundamental areas fleet managers should focus on and communicate to their drivers. For example, aggressive driving (such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking) can lower fuel economy by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent on city streets. A typical fleet sedan consumes half a gallon of fuel for every hour spent idling. Every gallon of gasoline burned produces 19.5 pounds of CO2 and every gallon of diesel creates 22.1 pounds of CO2.

Many times fleet managers feel overwhelmed knowing they should be doing something to green their fleet, but thinking it is an all-or-nothing proposition. A green fleet program can take many forms, customized to the needs of each organization. The most powerful incentive to green a fleet occurs when fuel prices are rising. Higher fuel prices create pressure to maximize fuel efficiency in order to lower fuel costs. If you decrease fuel consumption, you automatically lower emissions.

The bottom line is that increased fuel efficiency equates to less fuel burned, which equates to fewer emissions and lower costs. But, before we pat ourselves on the back, let’s remember that running an efficient fleet is the fundamental job responsibility of an in-house fleet manager, which, by default, will translate into a greener fleet.

For many fleets, high acquisition costs for greener vehicles plus the lack of fleet-appropriate models continue to be barriers to fleet sustainability initiatives. Today’s constrained capital budgets limit the funds to replace units, especially green vehicles, which run counter to sustainability initiatives. This failure to replace aged vehicles contradicts carbon-emissions reduction plans. One response to fiscal constraints is to focus on driver behavior as a way to increase fuel efficiency to meet environmental goals.

In the final analysis, the “greenest” vehicle is the one that isn’t driven. However, a fleet needs to move employees and cargo. To accomplish its mission, a fleet needs to burn fuel. The question is how do you burn less of it? Invariably, companies focus on modifying the vehicle asset to green their fleet. However, the easiest (and most cost-effective) way to achieve a sustainable reduction in fuel consumption is by modifying driver behavior.

Let me know what you think.

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About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award, presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

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