8 November 2023

What REALLY makes a sustainable fleet?

Delivery truck parked by the side of the road on a street with green trees. Profile image of Johan Forseke.

Sustainability remains a key focus for fleets, and it’s likely to stay that way for a long time to come. In addition to the existing global sustainability goals and Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) reporting regulations, there are ever-increasing pressures from all angles. Consumers, investors, eco-system partners, and so on. But what exactly does sustainability entail? And what does it take to operate a truly sustainable fleet?

Download now: Everything you need to know about ESG reporting

Why does sustainability matter?

There are so many reasons. For one, all United Nations Member States have adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which incorporates the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Additionally, countries around the world have pledged their commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in the United Nations’ Race to Zero Campaign.

As a fleet operator, you are in an influential position when it comes to sustainability. Transportation accounts for nearly one-quarter of global energy-related CO2 emissions so there is clear potential to make a difference and lead the way with a sustainable fleet.

Being sustainable is also about doing the right thing. One of the original definitions of sustainability is “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.[1] Sustainability improves the quality of our lives while protecting natural resources for the future.

What legislation applies to fleet sustainability?

Many regulations apply to ESG reporting. The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), set up after COP26, is developing—in the public interest—standards that will result in a comprehensive global baseline of sustainability disclosures.

While legislation is complex, the general rule of thumb is that large or quoted companies are required to report on their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in their annual reports. See our ESG eGuide for more detailed information on sustainability legislation.

Is my existing fleet safety program enough to meet the regulations? 

If you operate a fleet and already have a safety program, you might assume that influencing safer driving will inevitably result in more eco-friendly driving behavior, and a more sustainable fleet. But it’s not necessarily the case, nor is it enough to meet sustainability reporting requirements.

Transparency is key, and that means sharing data about your company’s emissions, targets for improvement, and progress made. An interesting point to note is that some companies allocate funding for the management of sustainability, but NOT for road safety (I could write a whole blog post on my thoughts on this, and how safety fits into ESG, but the purpose of this blog is to uncover what makes a sustainable fleet).

What emissions need to be considered by a sustainable fleet?

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol establishes comprehensive global standardized frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The GHG Protocol classifies an organization’s emissions into three scopes:

Scope 1 emissions: direct emissions from owned or controlled sources (including company-owned vehicles used for business travel)

Scope 2 emissions: indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy (including the charging of company-owned electric vehicles)

Scope 3 emissions: indirect emissions, not included in Scope 2, that occur up and down the reporting company’s value chain. This has big implications for fleets, since it requires them to work with their supply chain partners to obtain emissions data.

What does it mean to be a sustainable fleet?

In line with the original meaning of sustainability, a sustainable fleet is one that operates without negatively affecting the environment. This entails the implementation of a sustainable fleet management strategy covering many areas of operations. Vehicle purchasing, maintenance, route optimization, fuel management, and vehicle disposal all come into it.

In recent years, a key focus has been on the shift to electric vehicles (EVs). However, as outlined above, the emissions generated through the electricity used to charge EVs must still be reported. For many companies, most of their emissions fall into the Scope 3 category, meaning it’s important to identify a reliable method of obtaining consistent data that can be embraced by partners too.

The role of driver attitude in a sustainable fleet

Many people are surprised to learn just how much driver attitude influences CO2 emissions. In fact, at Greater Than, we have discovered that the average fleet can reduce CO2 emissions by 20% just by incentivizing drivers to be more aware of the way they drive.

Focus, anticipation, and vehicle control are all major factors in a driver’s climate impact. Let’s take some examples:

  • Lack of focus – or mind wandering – often causes speed variation up and down, resulting in unnecessary accelerations and increased energy consumption.
  • Any speed gain is an acceleration, no matter how small. Failing to anticipate what’s coming up on the road can result in unnecessary acceleration, increased fuel consumption and increased CO2 emissions.
  • When driving on motorways/freeways, too many drivers pump the accelerator pedal up and down in a never-ending pattern to speed up whenever they can (even if they know they’ll have to slow down again right away!) This type of driving uses unnecessary fuel. Keeping a safe, suitable following distance can help avoid the temptation to vary speed unnecessarily.
  • Many drivers rely too heavily on cruise control. It is comfortable, yes, but lethal for fuel economy in many cases.

It’s important to point out that driver attitude doesn’t only affect CO2 emissions from vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE). It also significantly influences EV battery performance, and how long each charge lasts. Therefore, incorporating driver attitude into a sustainable fleet is important for all fleet types, as driver attitude can help to reduce emissions across Scopes 1, 2, and 3.

Utilizing technology to quantify driver attitude

You might already use technology to measure driving activities such as mileage and idling time. And this could be relevant information for sustainability and ESG reporting. But do you have tools in place to measure your fleet’s CO2 emissions and the impact that driver attitude has on them?

Measuring driver attitude doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, being armed with new driver attitude insights helps you to identify weaknesses across your fleet and – more importantly – enables you to take mitigation action.

Technology today is so powerful that you can understand the factors contributing to climate impact at the group or individual driver level. You can drill down into days of the week, times of day, location, and individual trips. This facilitates detailed sustainability reporting and supports prompt identification of climate impact risk factors and driver training needs.

It’s easy to obtain climate impact data for a more sustainable fleet

At Greater Than, our technology converts GPS data into climate impact insights. These insights can be used to measure your fleet’s CO2 driving emissions in grams, to identify drivers in need of intervention, and to recognize carbon emission savings as a result of action taken. This is valuable information that can be used for sustainability management and ESG reporting.

It’s easy to get started. Your GPS data can be shared with us via a smartphone app, SDK in an existing app or API from dashcam, connected car, telematics device, or other system. You can be up and running in a matter of days, and our AI requires only 1km of driving to start measuring climate impact.

Contact Greater Than or book a meeting to learn more about how we can help you establish a more sustainable fleet.


[1] Published in 1987 in the Brundtland report (by United Nations Brundtland Commission)