The three pillars of sustainability
A sustainable fleet isn't just one that seeks environmentally friendly or ‘green’ practices in isolation. That’s just one of the three pillars of sustainability, which are economic, environmental and social, otherwise known as people, planet & profits.
Sustainable fleet management practices entwine these three elements to ensure the long-term financial viability of your fleet operations while also reducing its impact on the environment and the people you employ and serve.
Setting the objectives to make your fleet sustainable
The overall objectives of a sustainable fleet plan become clear by focusing on the three pillars of sustainability:
- Make the fleet safer and cleaner so that your drivers and the general public are put at the least possible risk from your transport operations
- Reduce airborne emissions of noxious gases and particles that have been proven to cause respiratory diseases and premature deaths
- Provide continuous development opportunities and training to your drivers, to enable them to reach their full potential and grow with your organisation
- Reduce fleet fuel consumption to decrease your fleet’s demand for fossil fuels
- Transition towards zero emissions vehicles
- Improve vehicle and routing efficiency to emit fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs)
- Decrease traffic congestion by reducing unnecessary transport mileage
- Reduce total cost of ownership (TCO), including fuel, maintenance, accident, insurance and other operating expenditures
- Reduce fleet capital expenditure, optimising vehicle uptime and utilisation rates
Unsurprisingly, it’s profit that underpins the success of most sustainability initiatives. If strategies to reduce the environmental or social impact of your fleet don’t also make sound financial sense – or if they carry too great a cost for their broader benefits – then they generally won’t last.
What exactly is a sustainable fleet?
There’s no switch that instantly turns a fleet sustainable. Instead, it’s about actively engaging in the process of finding improvements and efficiencies.
First, that entails understudying the costs and impacts of your current fleet practices. To really understand them, you need to collect data. Ideally it should be as granular as per vehicle, and for a year – or at least a few months. Look out for our next article that talks you through the most important KPIs to measure, and what to do with that data…
Then it’s about continually improving the fleet operations, cutting out inefficient practices, implementing driver training and engagement, and identifying the best investments that will result in financial and environmental savings. A sustainable fleet is one that puts a practical improvement plan into action, and in doing so, reduces its environmental and social impacts in a financially sustainable manner.
Why is it important to make my fleet sustainable?
This is a question with a lot of good answers, and to an extent it depends on your perspective. Ultimately, whether you are driven by saving costs, or saving the planet, there are plenty of reasons why making your fleet operations greener should be a key focus for you and your organisation.
Here are some reasons for starters:
- Reduced operating costs - by improving fuel efficiency, your fuel costs come down, improving your bottom line. Equally, by implementing a predictive maintenance program, vehicle uptime improves and recovery, repair and maintenance costs fall.
- Reduced organisational carbon footprint - for many businesses, the fleet is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions. That puts it under great pressure to make savings if your organisation has a sustainability, environmental social and governance (ESG), or corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and needs to report on its carbon emissions.
- Supply chain pressure - even if your organisation doesn’t have its own targets for reducing its environmental and social impact, it’s increasingly asked of businesses by the larger customers they serve. Some may need specific data to measure their Scope 3 carbon emissions.
- Happier, more engaged drivers - this ultimately helps with both driver retention, and new driver recruitment, since word travels fast about responsible, positive employers.
- Improved road safety - a greener fleet that’s subject to a rigorous predictive maintenance schedule is safer to drive. And drivers who are trained on eco-driving practices are safer and more considerate on the road. These two factors can result in reduced at-fault collisions, and in turn, reduced insurance premiums.
- Improved road safety - a greener fleet that’s subject to a rigorous predictive maintenance schedule is safer to drive. And drivers who are trained on eco-driving practices are safer and more considerate on the road. These two factors can result in reduced at-fault collisions, making your drivers and other road users safer.
No matter your initial reason for starting on a journey to a more sustainable fleet, the results can exceed your expectations and bring benefits in areas that you’d never previously considered.