CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is increasingly finding its way onto companies' agendas, and fleet management activities are directly affected. In its 2022 Green Skills survey, LinkedIn also mentions the role of fleet manager as one of the professions that will require increasingly extensive CSR expertise in the future.
What is the link between CSR and fleet management? What do companies actually gain from committing to it?
This article answers these questions and sheds light on the best practices to follow to make fleet management part of CSR by means of on-board telematics, a far cry from superficial greenwashing.
Fleet management at the heart of CSR issues
CSR: why is it becoming so important?
The role of CSR managers is to promote awareness of environmental and social issues to a company’s stakeholders: employees, customers, investors, regulators, suppliers, etc. These themes are becoming increasingly important within companies, and transport is no exception. The major trends in the last few years include:
Tightening of regulations
France is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to CSR. Under the 2019 PACTE Law, all French companies with more than 500 employees must produce a report explaining how they are taking account of social and environmental issues. In parallel, environmental regulations are being made tighter, particularly with the Climate and Resilience Law and the Mobility Orientation Law, which are having a direct impact on fleet management. Transport is responsible for one third of greenhouse gas emissions in France and is therefore the subject of targeted regulatory measures to reduce its impact.
CSR has become an important factor of employer brand image
Employees are increasingly concerned about what their employers are doing about environmental and social issues: working conditions (well-being at work, health and safety), the company’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact, etc. CSR is now a factor of employer brand image and a company’s attractiveness is judged on the basis of its efforts in this regard, particularly by the younger generation.
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is having its moment
Investors are increasingly looking at companies’ performance on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria, the pillars of responsible investment, which are used to assess how well sustainable development is being taken into account by a company.
Responsible fleet management: an important tool of CSR
The aspects of management under the control of fleet managers are often those that have an impact on the environmental and social factors taken into account in a CSR policy. Many of these actions may reduce a company’s environmental impact through its transport policy and offer working conditions that ensure the health, safety and well-being of its workers. The main areas for action include:
Training drivers in eco-driving
Training employees in eco-driving has an effect on two levels:
- it ensures the safety of drivers and reduces accidents by preventing risky behaviours at the wheel
- it reduces behaviours that increase your fleet’s energy bill and vehicle wear.
Greening up your fleet and offering new mobility solutions
The new legal obligations for mobility (Mobility Orientation Law, Climate Law, etc.) come with different incentive measures for companies, such as the creation of the sustainable mobility allowance for employees, and new tax rules and obligations to green up fleets.
- Vehicle replacement is a time to think about the use and upgrading of your fleet.
- Gradually replacing eligible vehicles with electric vehicles can meet the greening up requirement,
- as can the introduction of pooling solutions like car-sharing.
Reviewing your car policy
In parallel with these actions on the ground, reviewing your company’s car policy is a means of:
- raising awareness among employees of CSR issues,
- formalising and promoting the actions taken by the company among employees: new car-sharing solutions, electric vehicles, sustainable mobility allowance, etc.
- promoting environmental best practices for work-related travel and commuter journeys.
How to make fleet management part of a virtuous approach to CSR
As CSR policies become more common, so do accusations of greenwashing by companies. Greenwashing means promoting the benefits associated with a company’s actions on social, societal or environmental factors in a misleading or clumsy way. Why and how should this be avoided? And how can on-board telematics solutions help?
CSR, fleet management and greenwashing: why people are talking about it
The greenwashing trap
The mission of a CSR department is to meet the expectations of stakeholders on these social and environmental issues as effectively as possible. With greenwashing, the risk is that the actions taken by a company are ‘burnished’ and/or the results overstated through a desire to offer a more attractive image to stakeholders. This type of communication devalues genuine efforts made by companies.
Stakeholders are increasingly attentive to greenwashing techniques: consumers, associations and the public are not hesitating to call out companies suspected of greenwashing on social media. Friends of the Earth, an association working on these issues, has created the Pinocchio Awards to highlight greenwashing practices by large companies.
Examples of greenwashing in sustainable mobility and fleet management
Transport is not exempt from the risk of greenwashing. Here are some examples of communication practices that can lead to confusion:
- The use of the term ‘carbon neutral’ to describe a delivery service provided by an electric vehicle fleet. Although permitted under certain conditions, this claim has been criticised because the carbon footprint of a product or service should take account of its entire lifecycle. Use of the term is now governed by a regulatory decree.
- Communicating disproportionately about an action described as virtuous when it represents only a tiny part of a company’s activity or is actually a regulatory requirement. One example is an ad campaign on replacing a few vehicles with electric when the beneficial impact on the company’s environmental footprint is minimal.
Telematics serving responsible fleet management
As well as acting as a copilot for fleet managers and drivers, on-board telematics solutions are proven tools for helping with CSR policy.
To avoid the pitfalls of greenwashing, fleet management practices must be based on transparency, which requires measurable data that can be compared over time.
Onboard telematics can thus assist with responsible fleet management by supporting the following:
Measurement of the impact of a company’s vehicle fleet
- On-board telematics tools collect and consolidate a variety of vehicle and driving data: wear, mileage, routes, journey duration, electricity and fuel consumption, fleet CO2 emissions, statistics on accidents and risky behaviours, etc.
- This variety of measurements can help to provide a holistic view of the CSR challenges associated with fleet management, and identify areas for improvement to be tackled as a priority.
Setting and monitoring of measurable targets
By consolidating your fleet’s performance data over time within a centralised software solution, on-board telematics can also support the setting and monitoring of measurable targets in the priority areas identified for your vehicle fleet. Here are some examples of targets that can be monitored by a fleet management solution:
- reduction in risky behaviour observed,
- reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by your fleet,
- change in your fleet’s composition by integrating car-sharing and/or electric vehicles, etc.
Support for the implementation of concrete action plans
Onboard telematics tools can also support the implementation of action plans. For example, the Ocean fleet management solution includes the following features:
- Performance of fleet diagnostics to identify which vehicles may be replaced with electric or hybrid vehicles.
- Raising driver awareness of eco-driving by displaying indicators at the wheel related to sudden driving behaviours and the possibility of setting up challenges between teams or drivers to foster an eco-friendly culture within the company.
- The Car Policy module, which provides drivers with all the relevant CSR documents and information.
CSR reporting and communication
Using data transmitted by onboard telematics ensures that the information is traceable and enables you to communicate on your targets. This information can be used in CSR communications prepared for stakeholders, such as the company’s sustainable development report. Here are some examples:
- The use of data on the fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions to calculate the company’s carbon footprint,
- Figures for targets met on reducing CO2 emissions,
- Communication with the Economic and Social Committee (ESC) on actions taken to improve drivers’ health and safety.
CSR, responsible fleet management and onboard telematics: an initiative just for large companies?
Mid-caps and SMEs are also working on CSR. 90% of business leaders say that they are engaged in CSR actions, 50% as part of a structured approach, according to a BPI study in 2018.
SMEs are also taking action on the energy transition and greening up their fleets, and are ‘sometimes able to adapt quicker than certain large accounts’, Flotauto recently reported.
Engaging in a responsible fleet management policy is therefore not the sole preserve of large companies, but an ambition within the reach of all, which a string of regulations has prompted us to prioritise.