Canada’s transportation sector is a major contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It accounts for approximately 26% of the country’s total emissions and is the largest emitting sector in Ontario.
Let’s take a look at how business operations are creating emissions from transportation and what actions they can take to reduce their footprint.
The Scope of Transportation Emissions in Canada
When measuring a business’s carbon footprint, it’s important to understand the scope of GHG emissions – Scope 1, 2 and 3.
Scope 1 emissions refer to the direct emissions from a business’s own activities, such as fuel usage from fleets. Scope 2 emissions are those caused by a business indirectly – such as the emissions associated with EV charging stations. Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions from the business’s value chain, such as the transportation of goods and services.
When it comes to transportation, businesses need to focus on reducing emissions in all three scopes to address the impact of GHG emissions and work towards a sustainable future.
Contributors and Opportunities
In Canada, the transportation sector is responsible for 27% of all energy-related emissions in the country, with 50% coming from personal vehicles, trucks and vans. In business, transportation-related emissions are largely caused by commercial transportation, employee commute and business travel.
Thankfully, businesses have many opportunities to take a proactive role in mitigating their employees’ impact on transportation emissions.
Sustainable Commuting Options
In Canada, the average commute is 8.7 km each way and produces 3.6 kg of CO2 emissions without accounting for idling emissions. One way to reduce emissions is by providing incentives or support for alternative transportation options to work, such as public transit, cycling or carpooling. This could include subsidising transit passes, offering bike storage or even providing a shuttle service for employees who live in the same area. Studies show that choosing to bike over using a car just once a day reduces the average person’s daily carbon emissions from transportation by 67%.
Ensuring accessibility to the offices is extremely important. This could mean requesting a public transit route or stop that allows access to the offices or lobbying for the municipality to install protected cycling infrastructure, making it easier for employees to get to work sustainably. This not only reduces employees’ carbon footprint but also contributes to their physical health and well-being. Another approach is to promote flexible work arrangements such as remote work or flexible hours. By allowing employees to work from home or adjust their schedules, businesses can reduce the number of people commuting at peak times, which can help alleviate traffic congestion and reduce emissions. Studies show that exposure to traffic congestion can have serious health implications, such as increased blood pressure, asthma and anxiety compared to bicyclists and walkers who reported they felt more relaxed and alert when arriving at work, leading to greater productivity. It’s possible that having these benefits as a business could also attract more employees, another indirect benefit.
Sustainable Business Travel
Business travel also contributes significantly to transportation emissions, including flights, car rentals and hotel stays. Fortunately, there exist effective strategies to mitigate this environmental impact.
One effective strategy to reduce emissions is to utilise virtual communication tools and hold meetings or conferences remotely. By minimising travel, businesses can reduce their carbon footprint and save on travel costs. For unavoidable business travel, organisations can choose fuel-efficient modes of transportation, such as electric vehicles, carpooling, utilising public transit and booking flights with fewer layovers. Studies show that takeoff and landing alone account for up to 50% of a flight’s carbon emissions, and connecting flights emit 100kg more carbon dioxide per person than direct flights. To put this into perspective, it’s like running a refrigerator for an entire year. To minimize emissions during takeoff and landing, it’s best to opt for direct, non-stop flights.
Businesses that rely on vehicle fleets, such as delivery companies, are significant contributors to Canada’s GHG emissions. As explained in our Whitepaper, switching to green fleets is a key opportunity for transportation emission reductions.
We can take inspiration from our member Alectra, who won the 2022 Environmental Initiative Award with their Greenhouse Gas Reductions in Fleet project. Alectra identified its largest contributing source to be its fleet, accounting for 63% of emissions. To combat this, Alectra implemented several programs that targeted vehicle maintenance, driver behavior, right-sizing of vehicles and the adoption of new fuel technologies. Learn more about this initiative here.
If you want to reduce your business’s GHG emissions and work towards a more sustainable future, taking a look at your transportation footprint is a great way to start. This not only benefits the environment but can also lead to cost savings, happier employees and improved public perception of your business. By making these changes, you are taking an important step towards a more sustainable future for your business and the planet.
Sustainability Leadership helps businesses achieve their sustainability goals through the Sustainability Leadership Program (SLP). Our growing resource of whitepapers also shares the science and economic influence behind sustainability so you can better understand why investing in sustainable best practices will benefit your business.
Contact us to get started today.