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NHS commuting emissions under the spotlight to support net zero goals

Five pioneering NHS Trusts have committed to reducing their commuting emissions in a bid to meet ambitious net zero goals.

Often overlooked, commuting emissions account for 4% of the NHS’ total emissions output. As the UK’s largest employer, the NHS must decarbonise the commute of staff and partners if it is to succeed in becoming the world’s first world’s first 'net zero' national health service by 2040.

Chief Executive of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens said: “It is not enough for the NHS to treat the problems caused by air pollution and climate change – from asthma to heart attacks and strokes – we need to play our part in tackling them at source.”

The East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, South Eastern Health & Social Care TrustNHS Lanarkshire, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group have embraced a newly launched technology, the Mobilityways Platform, to understand, track and change their commuting emissions.

The Mobilityways Platform was developed in lockdown by car-sharing pioneers, the Liftshare Group, and is the only software solution dedicated to decarbonising the commute. The Platform is a suite of software tools that enables employers to evidence, track, plan and change their commuter emissions.

The Mobilityways Platform is uniquely powered by ACEL© (Average Commuter Emissions Level) which is the only standardised methodology for benchmarking and comparing commuter emissions. This allows organisations to track their progress and measure the effectiveness of sustainable travel initiatives.

Collectively, these five trusts employ more than 58,000 workers, with the vast majority making daily commutes to the same sites. This puts huge strain on parking provisions, creating localised congestion and exacerbating air pollution problems. Using national averages, these commuters generate 34,882,508kg of CO2e per year.

Partnering with Mobilityways allows each trust to gain clear visibility of their actual commuter emissions, and act on data-based insights to effectively drive behaviour change. This is a long-term commitment with each trust striving for year-on-year CO2e reductions in order to successfully hit their net zero targets.

David Malone, Transport and Travel Advisor for Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS FT, championed the technology as a means to gain a better understanding the local mobility landscape. The trust is one of the UK’s largest trusts, with over 7,000 employees across 70 different sites.

“We are proud of our reputation for innovation and Mobilityways’ data supports us in new ways of thinking – for example, understanding where micro and macro transport providers could fill gaps in commuting options and providing the data for the operators to be able to make commercial decisions on this provision.”

Malone, who is also the Chair of the National Performance Advisory Group’s (NPAG) Parking and Sustainability Group reflected on the additional health and wellbeing benefits of the promotion and adoption of greener travel identified through the Mobilityways Platform.

“The potential to better understand the barriers to active travel through targeted surveying was also attractive. Increasing the number of staff undertaking active and shared travel will have physical and mental health benefits for employees - who will also potentially save a great deal of money by not driving alone to work.”

An increase in active travel, and higher adoption of public transport or car sharing services, also offers facilitates managers an opportunity to reduce historic parking challenges.

This was a key issue for Northern Care Alliance’s Estates Manager, Barry Waterhouse: “This is an opportunity to implement a consistent approach to the management of parking, travel and associated CO2e emissions. Mobilityways will help us to undertake data-based interventions on an on-going basis for the long term and allow us to track the impact of our work."

It’s estimated that national lockdowns reduced global carbon emissions by 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020, revealing the extent of the environmental impact of the commute. Mobilityways CEO, Ali Clabburn, developed the Platform to help employers commute back better and avoid a car-led recovery which threatens a return to pre-Covid emissions levels.

“It’s been heartening to see so much interest in the Mobilityways Platform at this early stage, it shows a real appetite to make Zero Carbon Commuting a reality. We’re particularly proud to launch with these five trailblazing trusts and I’m excited to see how much CO2e savings can be made in the coming years.” said Clabburn.

“We have 10 years left to take action to meet our net zero goals before it’s too late. The commute is the least efficient journey we ever make – and with 1.3 million employees, the NHS has the potential to make a huge savings in the UK’s commuter emissions output.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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