Björn Bröskamp is team lead, sustainability at TIER, a Berlin-based mobility startup whose scooters are now available across 11 European countries. In this op-ed he tells the story of how TIER became climate neutral – and how mobility solutions can help vastly reduce emissions everywhere.
Cars and planes in the EU are responsible for over 70% of transport related greenhouse gas emissions, and over 60% of car rides in German urban areas are under 5 km with an average of 1.45 passengers. Moreover, European commuters lose up to 100 hours per year in traffic jams. Needless to say, I could go on for the entirety of this article citing studies, which highlights and brings home the fact that mobility needs to change. If we want to preserve our globe for future generations we need to act fast, and while aiming for climate neutrality is not the full solution, it is most certainly a step in the right direction towards mitigating climate change.
We are proud of our commitment to being a fully climate neutral mobility provider, and truly believe that in just a few years, climate neutrality will become the new norm for all companies. What we do today will not be considered extraordinary. It will be considered extraordinary why others took so long.
Get to know your impacts
As with most things, the first step to climate neutrality is to not point your fingers at someone else, but look at yourself. You have to collect and calculate your company’s carbon footprint and the impact every process and product has. This includes the impact of your supply chain as well as your daily actions and operations: from all the paper you use for printing, to the electricity you use in your office, to the materials you use in production, to how you travel, to what happens to your product at the end of its lifecycle, and how your product or service is used on a daily basis.
It’s seemingly endless, can consume a lot of resources and it is very easy to get caught up in the details. I therefore highly recommend partnering up with a specialist. We are a mobility company which wants to help facilitate the movement of people, help them get from a to b, and in doing so transform how people move in cities.
Micro-mobility has tremendous potential to improve the urban quality of life, so looking for support is not something to be ashamed of. It’s really more of a commitment to our core business. Trust me, it’s extremely motivating to see how so many small start-ups pop up in the field of calculating your environmental impact, while bigger consulting companies build up, CSR, sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment departments to support.
After some extensive research to find a partner that could help us to calculate our Carbon Footprint, we decided to go with the German company, Climate Partner and I couldn’t be happier… In the admittedly labour-intensive process of collecting the data and seeing the greenhouse gas emissions, we learned a lot about where the biggest impacts lay in our business model. I want to add here that it is not about achieving the “lowest” carbon footprint compared to the competition, by making false assumptions or only calculating some of your impacts. Be honest to yourself! Do not just look at tailpipe emissions, when you manufacture a car. Include the emissions to manufacture the fuel!
If you are a consulting company, don’t just look at the office energy, as the travel emissions of your employees most likely have a much bigger impact. Try to investigate and calculate ALL the emissions in the lifecycle of your product and/or service. Often emissions are also related to your costs and you may come to find out huge cost reduction potential, that reduces emissions at the same time.
Once you have an overview of your emissions, comes the most important step: reducing your emissions! This should not be seen as a one time project, but rather as a process that is repeated on a regular basis. For this you go through every process of your business that creates emissions and look how you can reduce or even omit them. Maybe these are projects that you have already planned or started. Maybe these are initiatives you decided against because of timing or cost reasons. Take the time to reevaluate them to determine if you can adjust and greatly reduce your emissions. Emission reduction should be seen as a priority and a core part of your processes and goals and not as a “nice to have”. Here are just a few examples of what we did.
We changed our operations model to swappable batteries, which substantially reduced emissions and cost. Additionally, we started to utilize electric vans and eCargo bikes as part of our new operations model, which in the short term did not always reduce costs, but emissions. Moreover we are currently in the process of changing all our warehouses to run on renewable energy, which will cost us some money, but further reduce our emissions.
A process such as this should be done in every part of your business. We are by no means perfect, but we are surely taking a step in the right direction. We will continue to push ourselves and learn on a constant basis on how to get better and further reduce our emissions.
Only after reducing where you can, the offsetting of emissions is the ultima ratio. Every business and every institution creates emissions and we as a company will never be emissions free. That being said, you can offset the remaining emissions, by investing in projects that capture carbon and mitigate climate change. I again want to stress to not skip the reduction step. It is crucial that you only offset once you cannot reduce any further! Even though offsetting your emissions is controversial, it is currently the only way for us to become climate neutral.
There are many discussions surrounding carbon offset projects and the double counting of offset emissions by a state and the company. It is really important that these challenges are being sorted out and taken care of by project developers and offsetting providers. We as a mobility provider need to be aware of it, but not steer the discussion. We trust our partner, that the money we pay to offset our emissions is invested in the most efficient way. Of course, we will challenge when necessary and ask for approval, but we are not an offsetting provider.
After running you through some steps, we want to ask all stakeholders to join us. Challenge yourself, evaluate your business model, and aim for climate neutrality! Not just by offsetting , but by actually re-evaluating your business model and by actively reducing the emissions you create. We want to challenge every one, and every company to make reducing emissions and offsetting the rest a habit and standard practice. Just like preparing your annual financial statement. Aim for climate neutrality!
And it shouldn’t stop there. We as a mobility provider also have a social responsibility to support the communities where we offer our services. Providing sustainable mobility solutions and changing mobility for good also includes addressing the social aspects. From the working conditions in the warehouses and manufacturing sites to increasing accessibility and affordability to the socially disadvantaged and low income groups.
And if carbon neutrality is “the norm”, we will surely strive to set new standards in the environmental and social development of mobility and hope that everyone else will follow again. Together we will continue to change mobility for good.