Procurement Essentials is a new series of articles to help you overcome common hurdles, understand key concepts, and make your life as a buyer of everyday goods and services easier.

Published 3 April 2023

Last updated 10 July 2023

Adapting your travel and transport procurement strategy can significantly impact the environment through helping staff, people and goods move around in an easier, healthier and more sustainable way.

Why procure your transport solutions sustainably?

Transport is the largest emitting sector of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK. It is estimated that poor air quality could cost health and social care services in England £5.3 billion by 2035.

There is huge potential for public sector transport procurement solutions to be a force for good. Tackling air pollution through increasing the efficiency of public and fleet travel, and encouraging the transition to cleaner modes of transport will create better places for us all to live and work in, with quieter and less congested streets. 

Practical steps to decarbonisation of transport 

We know that building sustainability into your procurements and staying on track for net zero can be complex. Knowing where to start can be the biggest challenge. 

Begin with a deep dive into the interlinking elements of your transport emissions to help you assess what aspects of your procurement strategy can be altered to reduce the impacts of climate change, including:

  1. reviewing your fleet 

As part of your fleet management you should regularly review your fleet size, vehicle types and fuel usage. Time invested in reviewing your fleet now and continuous monitoring will help to ensure you have an efficient, cost-effective, and low-emission fleet that is fit for the future.  

The alternatively fuelled vehicle market has grown extensively in recent years. As a result, you now have more vehicle choices, including hybrid, fully electric and other ultra low emission vehicles. Ask yourself which vehicles may be suitable for replacement with electric vehicles.

Fleet managers may wish to consider replacing diesel fleet with electric or hybrid ones to reduce carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) emissions per year.  For example, the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust replaced its diesel fleet with 51 RAV4 fully converted vehicles that are more environmentally efficient, yet equally capable of carrying crews and equipment. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was selected for its qualities to serve as a new rapid response vehicle for NHS paramedic teams. The Trust chose to use CCS to source the vehicles using the vehicle purchase framework agreement (RM6060). The new SUVs will be covering up to 40,000 miles a year, working the length and breadth of Wales. 

Once vehicles suitable for replacement with an equivalent zero-emission model have been identified, the next step is to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the switch on a whole life cost basis to formulate your procurement strategy. Our Fleet Portal can estimate whole life costs for fleets including its purchase or lease cost, residual value, maintenance costs, fuel costs, fuel consumption and taxation.

  1. make commuting and incidental miles less harmful

Simple solutions can help you make a bigger impact on incidental miles travelled for business and commuting or for journeys carried out in employee-owned vehicles, also known as grey fleet. You can maximise journeys and encourage electric vehicle use in a number of ways including:

  • making car share vehicles near convenient travel hubs and meeting spaces widely available
  • making newer and less harmful pool or daily rental vehicles readily available to more staff and at an appealing cost
  • installing telematics to collect and transmit data about the vehicle’s speed, fuel consumption, driver routes and behaviour
  • offering green car salary sacrifice schemes to employees as a benefit

A green salary sacrifice scheme gives employees access to newer, cleaner, safer vehicles, making commutes and incidental miles less harmful. Hiring newer vehicles also allows employees to choose a hybrid or fully electric vehicle.

For example, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK, accelerated their carbon reduction plans and fast tracking fleet electrification by offering a green employee salary sacrifice scheme to staff.  The Trust employs more than 14,000 staff and provides services across 7 key hospital sites, in addition to further settings across the local community.

  1. create a scalable charging infrastructure to meet multiple user needs

With proper workplace charging implementation, employers can help increase the convenience and affordability of driving electric for their employees. Workplace charging can demonstrate a commitment to adopting advanced vehicle technologies.

Assess how your charging infrastructure can meet the needs of fleet users, employees, and the general public in various ways, including: 

  • providing dedicated networks for operational commercial vehicles 
  • facilitating in-car park / at work charging offerings for staff
  • adopting a hybrid approach using a charging infrastructure model that can also be made available to the general public at cost
  1. put innovative technology and data to work 

Deploying innovative technology to do the work for you can help reduce carbon emissions. Across the UK, traffic management is helping tackle many sources of air pollution. SMART technologies can be used to incentivise and regulate driver behaviour and create Clean Air Zones to improve the air we breathe and how we navigate our cities. 

Using roadside furniture, such as number plate recognition, vehicle charging infrastructure, sustainable street lighting, and traffic monitoring CCTV systems, can further extend your green impact, helping to establish and maintain clean air zones.

We recently worked with Bristol City Council to introduce a clean air zone, which improved traffic flows and increased priority for buses at traffic signals. Innovative technology enabled enforcement of restrictions on the highest polluting vehicles and encouraged the use of cleaner vehicles and helped motivate people to walk, cycle or use public transport more.


You can now find all of our Procurement Essentials articles in one place on our website

Download our updated Cityscape interactive guide to learn how small changes to the public sector’s transport and travel strategy can help us reach carbon net zero.