How do fleets make the move to green?

Today’s fleet mangers are struggling to develop sustainable, cost-effective fleet policies. To help drive the conversation forward, LeasePlan brought together global fleet and corporate social responsibility managers for its third U.S. Green Summit last spring at the McDonald’s University campus just outside Chicago.

The half-day event was part crash-course in the science and politics of climate change and emissions reductions, part examination of vehicle OEM strategies, and part participant exchange of experiences and best practices.

Finding the Right Balance

“It’s all about finding the right balance between planet, profit, and people (drivers),” explained the summit’s presenter, Saskia Harreman, LeasePlan International managing consultant based in The Netherlands.

Explaining the basics of global warming, Harreman noted carbon dioxide (CO2) accounted for more than 50 percent of harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the U.S., transportation is the greatest contributor to CO2 emissions; in Europe, transportation is second to heat and electricity production in percentage of CO2 emissions, Harreman pointed out.

Janet Horvath, manager, supply chain, for Eaton Corporation, was one of several summit attendees who found the science lesson valuable. “The presentation was very good in providing an understanding of the science and challenge of CO2 emissions,” said Horvath. “I also learned valuable information about the impact of European environmental legislation, particularly important to us as an international corporation.”

Harreman reported on the European Commission’s ambitious CO2 emissions reductions goals for 2012, while U.S. federal targets include 18-percent GHG emission reduction by 2012 and 35 mpg vehicle fuel efficiency by 2020.

In addition to networking with other summit participants, Lisa Vitola, associate manager of travel services for Fujifilm USA, appreciated learning about OEM strategies.

According to Harrreman, “most manufacturers have a similar approach to 
fuel-efficiency and emissions reductions.” This approach includes:

  • Optimizing internal combustion engine technology.
  • Improving fuel efficiency through “smarter” use of technology.
  • Expanding development of alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles.
  • Advancing hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Developing a Green Fleet Plan

Establishing an environmental-responsive fleet plan requires communication, reporting, training, and driver incentives, Harreman explained, using LeasePlan’s GreenPlan program as a model. The model offers eight steps:

  • Conduct a fleet CO2 baseline assessment. Benchmark against other company functions and industry peers.
  • Evaluate fleet composition, including anticipated renewals. Determine vehicle model fuel efficiencies and emissions.
  • Set CO2 reduction target.
  • Pinpoint fleet’s biggest polluting factors: mileage, driver behavior, and vehicle selection.
  • Identify CO2 reduction opportunities.
  • Calculate cost/benefit of each initiative.
  • Determine which initiatives to pursue.
  • Implement the revised vehicle policy.

Building an eco-conscious yet cost-effective fleet requires weighing fuel costs, environmental impact, vehicle costs, and driver satisfaction, Harreman emphasized.

Describing the vehicle selection discussion, Pam Cox, director of global industry sourcing for Thermo Fisher Scientific, said, “My one big takeaway was to the untrained eye, hybrids seem the way to go. But, you must investigate the driver profile and take into account the total cost of ownership or you can back the company into a costly, unwise proposal.”

“A green fleet could decrease total cost of ownership as fuel consumption decreases,” said Harreman, noting that 32 percent of total cost of ownership is fuel.

She added, “From a driver perspective, green doesn’t necessarily mean smaller cars. It’s also about fuel consumption and driving behavior.”