The single largest emissions source in the U.S. is transportation. And commuting accounts for about 30% of all miles driven in the U.S. While business travel may be easier to document, employee commuting typically falls through the cracks.
While employee commuting emissions might seem like the individual’s responsibility, the emissions are part of a company’s scope 3 emissions profile. If that has you frazzled, fear not—below, we detail everything you need to know about how to measure those emissions.
If you can think back to a time before the coronavirus pandemic, commuting was likely one of your work week displeasures. On average, the U.S. Census says it ate almost an hour of our day.
Time-suck aside, an internal study done at Sun Microsystems in 2008 found that daily commutes accounted for more than 98% of employees’ work-related carbon footprint. While your company’s mileage may vary (pun intended)—especially with the shift to remote and hybrid work—many employees still create GHG emissions from their commuting behaviors, which contribute to climate change.
Why should you track your commuting emissions?
Commuting emissions typically come from car and other vehicle exhaust but can also come from the electricity used to charge an electric vehicle or power your city’s metro system. And whether you have a fully remote, hybrid, or traditional workforce, you should consider how much your employees travel to get to work so you can help do it more efficiently.
If you’re able to track or at least estimate how your employees commute—both the transportation mode and distance—it means you can calculate commuting-related emissions (more on how to do that below).
And understanding your company’s CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions from employee commutes means you can then decide how to reduce those emissions. For example, encourage employees to trade carbon-intensive modes of transportation (here’s looking at you combustion engines) for active, carbon-free, and low-carbon alternatives that eliminate thousands of pounds of carbon emissions and improve air quality. In short, by measuring and tracking your commuting emissions, mitigation strategies become apparent.
What emissions scope is employee commuting?
Commuting emissions are scope 3 because they’re created indirectly by your company. Again, while your business doesn’t directly create these emissions, the people supporting it do.
If you’re curious to learn more about emissions scopes (you’ve probably heard about scopes 1, 2, and 3) and why you should care about them, this three-minute video will get you off on the right foot.
Calculate your commuting emissions
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After you see how much employee commutes contribute to your company’s carbon footprint, you can get to work reducing those emissions. That will look different for everyone. For some, it might be creating a bike-to-work program or incentives for carpooling and rideshares or taking public transportation. You could even dovetail your efforts to reduce your electricity use by formalizing a work from home plan.
And if you’re still stuck when it comes to reducing your commuting emissions, Sustain.Life’s carbon accounting platform includes over 100 step-by-step guides to help you reduce your carbon footprint.