In the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow, our webinar brought together workplaces across Scotland to discuss the climate emergency, and how they can be part of the solution by taking action on transport.
On Tuesday 5th October, Way to Work hosted a timely webinar, ‘The Climate Emergency & Transport: how workplaces can be part of the solution’.
The event was open to employers and employees across all sectors in Scotland, and aimed to offer an opportunity for workplaces to learn how to take action on climate change by promoting active and sustainable travel.
Introduction from Active Travel Minister
The webinar was opened by the Scottish Government’s new Minister for Active Travel, Patrick Harvie. Mr Harvie highlighted the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to significantly reduce transport emissions. Scotland is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Currently, domestic transport accounts for more than 25%.
The Minister also outlined the Government’s plans to ensure sustainable travel is “always the easiest choice”, and the important part that workplaces across Scotland can play in working together with the government to achieve this.
The climate context
To set out the context for the event’s discussions, Magdalena Trifonova from Keep Scotland Beautiful offered an introduction to the science of the climate emergency and what a net zero future would look like here in Scotland. Pointing out an alarming statistic that over 50% of journeys between 1km and 2km in Scotland are made by car, Magdalena reframed this as an opportunity for focused action.
Speaking to the role of workplaces in translating the net zero vision into a reality, she emphasised: “Climate action is not a sacrifice. Climate action has a lot of long term benefits and we really need to recognise those.” These benefits are wide-spanning and interconnected, and some of them we may not even realise – from new skills and jobs, more green spaces and connectivity, to a reduction in fuel poverty and better resilience to extreme weather.
Transport Scotland’s approach
Participants then heard from Brendan Rooney, Climate Change Unit Team Leader at Transport Scotland, who talked through Scotland’s approach to decarbonising our transport. Brendan emphasised that zero emissions is not just about electrification, but rather a shift away from the car and towards active travel and public transport.
Central to the Scottish Government’s pathway to net zero is a 20% reduction in car mileage and Transport Scotland’s Sustainable Travel Hierarchy shows that walking, wheeling and cycling should be prioritised in the first instance.
In terms of the way forward, Brendan echoed Mr Harvie by emphasising the need for active and sustainable travel to become commonplace and the natural choice. This behaviour change is however not an easy task, due to our “deeply engrained reliance on the car” in Scotland.
Brendan also touched on policy interventions the Scottish Government is proposing, including road space reallocation for active travel, making public and shared transport more affordable, accessible and user-friendly, and de-incentivising car use through measures such as low emission zones and workplace parking levies.
Business case study – Next
To offer some workplace-based examples of inspiration and good practice, we were joined by two major employers currently leading the way on integrating active and sustainable travel.
Sarah McAlinden, the Travel2Next Facilities Coordinator at Next, gave a packed presentation on the actions Next is taking to encourage employees to commute by active travel. Sarah provided tips not only on how to promote the active and sustainable travel message internally, but also on how to work with external partners and local authorities.
Business case study – IKEA
Joining us from IKEA Glasgow, COP26 Store Leader Lisa Deakin then spoke to their journey so far with active travel, offering advice on the best ways to communicate with staff. Lisa also emphasised the benefits of engaging in partnerships to provide more options to employees.
Thinking more holistically, she encouraged workplaces to go beyond the commute and consider their wider impact, offering an inspiring insight into IKEA Glasgow’s sustainable delivery partner.
Launch of Way to Work Pledge
After hearing from such a diverse range of speakers, the event sought to bring all of these discussions and ideas together by offering a set of suggested actions that workplaces could take to support active and sustainable travel:
Identify the impact of commuting and business travel
Create company policies that enable staff to travel by active and sustainable travel
Create working environments that promote active and sustainable travel
Advocate internally for active and sustainable travel
Advocate externally for active and sustainable travel
In relation to these steps, the Way to Work partnership introduced the event’s call to action for attendees – to make a pledge to support active and sustainable travel in their workplaces.
Way to Work is encouraging workplaces across Scotland to commit to take action on the climate emergency and reduce their transport emissions by focusing on active and sustainable methods.
Workplaces can pledge one or more of the 5 suggested actions above, or make a pledge of their own choosing. Visit our Pledge page for more information.
Conclusions and the way forward
Finally, to provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, the webinar opened up to a panel Q & A, at which point we also welcomed Katharine Brough, Head of Behaviour Change at Cycling Scotland. The Q & A saw the audience engaging with our speakers on topics such as public transport, cycling facilities and collective action.
With almost 100 in attendance from across different sectors, this event showed a strong awareness of transport’s role in the climate crisis amongst workplaces, as well as an appetite to seek out solutions.
With COP26 in Glasgow fast approaching and the eyes of the world on Scotland, there has never been a more crucial time for workplaces to take action on climate change.
Watch the full recording of the webinar below: