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Minimising the environmental impact of commuting and business travel

Public administration uses several internal processes and activities. Among these, commuting and business travel are becoming more frequent every day and they can have a great environmental impact. This can be better controlled and minimised by implementing specific actions and strategies. While public administration bodies have no influence over transport and infrastructure issues, they can support more sustainable transport for their employees and other stakeholders.

The impact of commuting and business travel can be minimised by:

  • changing staff behaviour to favour more sustainable commuting
  • drawing up travel plans that are more environmentally friendly
  • reducing commuting by private car and promoting public transport
  • supporting cycling and walking to work
  • favouring digital meetings over in-person meetings.

The above actions apply to all types of public administration entities, with specific measures implemented according to local conditions, such as availability of public transport, geographical conditions and so on.

Behavioural changes can be a powerful instrument to reduce carbon emissions, inefficient modes of transport and frequency of travel, and they can be achieved without any initial capital investment. Staff engagement incentivisation can include cycle to work days, cycling facilities, walking challenges, greater mileage payment for sustainable modes of transport and subsidised season tickets.

Existing tools are already in place to record how colleagues travel to work. Using these to compare their commutes and statistics could create a sense of community.

Staff travel plans offer support and incentives to encourage environmentally friendly commuting and travel. In addition, these plans reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, travel costs, parking expenses and land used for parking, while allowing for a better work-life balance and improving health and fitness. Public administration bodies can implement a carbon budget for business travel with a yearly cap: carbon emissions will be calculated for each trip and deducted from the budget, encouraging staff to use better low-carbon options.

Sustainable transport procurement policies have a key role in minimising the environmental impact of business travel. Where transport is necessary, core criteria should stipulate that the most sustainable mode of transport is taken where applicable (for example, a train journey within the EU, rather than a flight). Sustainability criteria should be stringent, but they should also ensure there is sufficient market supply and not substantially increase total lifetime costs.

When car use is unavoidable, public administration bodies should encourage environmentally efficient car use by car-pooling or using electrical vehicles for municipal fleets when this is an option.

These strategies will contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption and carbon emissions, traffic congestion and air pollution.

For further information on general mobility issues, please see best environmental management practices for MOBILITY.

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