Changeworks is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. The organisation identified staff commuting to work as an area for improvement and tasked their Green Team to help make this happen. Chair of Changeworks’ Green Team, Drew Murphy, describes some of the successful initiatives implemented and barriers overcome during the past year in encouraging staff to travel more sustainably.
Like many organisations, Changeworks calculates its carbon footprint annually, aiming for a downward trend in our greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike some however, we choose to include commuting to work as ‘indirect’ emissions. Recently this has accounted for around a third of the organisation’s carbon footprint. As a result, we have ramped up Green Team activity in this area to move staff up the travel hierarchy towards using more sustainable transport. The following are some examples of our initiatives, using DEFRA’s 4 Es model for effective behaviour change to frame them.
If you are asking staff to change their behaviour then it helps if your organisation can provide the facilities that enable them to make that change. For Changeworks this meant increasing our bicycle parking capacity, which was at its limits. This was not a straightforward process; the main challenge being finding space in an already bustling building. With support from SEStran we were able to install a new secure external cycle shelter, increasing cycle parking capacity by 50%. Additionally, as part of a recent office refurbishment we were able to recommend an increase in the number of showers to support active commuters. Facilities aren’t limited to physical infrastructure. It is also important that an organisation’s policies are also enabling the desired action. For example, enabling measures are included as part of Changeworks’ employee benefits package, such as participation in the Bike To Work scheme and public transport season ticket loans.
Incentives provide a little pull towards change. Small ways we have encouraged staff include providing free hi vis jackets for safety whilst cycling, and breakfast on Cycle To Work Day to reward regular cycle commuters. Earlier this summer Changeworks participated in Love To Ride, a national challenge aimed at getting more people on their bikes. This initiative offered the opportunity to motivate 69% of our staff to get out cycling. We also won the competition in our business category. As a result of participation in Love to Ride, some staff bought bikes and are now cycling to work, having not cycled for many years. A challenge for Changeworks is supporting staff based in multiple locations across Scotland. We try to involve all employees in Green Team initiatives where relevant. Our Green Team has representation from across the organisation and this is key to ensuring activities are as inclusive as possible.
Engaging staff regularly and in a way that is relevant is vital if you want to see changes in behaviour. The Green Team regularly communicates with staff, with a feature in the weekly internal staff newsletter, posters, email and active Green team reps in each department. The challenge here is about maintaining the right level of buzz; too much and it just becomes background noise, too little and you lose momentum. We realised we had spent a lot of effort promoting cycling but little on other forms of sustainable travel that might be relevant to employees not interested in cycling. We developed a walking challenge with support from Paths For All, which pitted teams from different departments against one another to see who could walk the furthest. The aim was to get staff walking to work, but also to promote other benefits of being more active. The following quote from a member of staff captures what the challenge is all about:
“Participating in the walking challenge made me walk to work, which I had never done before. I thought taking the bus would be quicker and less stressful, however walking takes about the same time and is a lot more enjoyable than being stuck in traffic! Since the challenge I've walked to work every single day and I will continue to do this.”
Leading by example is a great way to see change happen in your workforce. Changeworks is fortunate to have a Senior Management Team that walks the talk (pardon the pun...), with the majority regularly commuting by bicycle, walking or public transport. This promotes and embeds a culture of sustainable commuting, motivating staff to participate. As an environmental charity, operating sustainably is integral to Changeworks’ vision and strategy. Investment is also needed to see change happen (financially and staff time). Changeworks has been willing to invest both staff time in our Green Team and the facilities required to enable sustainable commuting.
The impact of commuting on our carbon footprint is difficult for Changeworks to control as it is affected by the personal circumstances of individual employees. Still, the Green Team’s influence and the organisation’s support for low-carbon choices has seen a 10% reduction in emissions from commuting this year compared with the previous. An improvement we will continue to build upon!
Areas for improvement in the year ahead include extending lockers to store staff active travel gear from our Inverness office to other locations, and more social bike rides, so watch this space….