Leading the charge to Net Zero
MotorPro’s interview with Anne Snelson, founder of Lead With Sustainability, a group of business people whose aim it is to help businesses become more sustainable, was already in the diary when news of the petrol and diesel deadline shift broke. As a result, some of what follows has been adapted for a family audience.
“The 2035 announcement is a backwards step,” says Snelson. “It's not buying time, as the Prime Minister claims, it's making the situation worse. Look at the reactions of manufacturers like Ford, that this will undermine the transition to electric vehicles.
“That’s tragic from a climate change perspective. It might also be problematic from a legal perspective, because the UK has a duty to reach Net Zero by 2050. Budgets are set on policy and the government's new trajectory is clearly inadequate.
“It’s important to remember that transport accounts for a quarter of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. We’re the biggest sector, higher than energy, according to the government’s latest provisional data, and the vast majority is road transport – passenger cars and HGVs. What’s more, energy is reducing, whereas transport is currently heading in the wrong direction.
“Our carbon literacy training goes into detail on these policies, and how they are forecast to meet certain targets. The key message is carbon literacy helps businesses improve and save money, as well as safeguarding the planet.”
For context, Snelson has enjoyed a successful career in the motor industry. She was policy researcher at the AA, then marketing manager at RingGo, including the roll-out of an award-winning emissions-based parking solution. Two years ago, she set up Lead With Sustainability, a carbon literacy consultancy specialising in transport.
“I was obviously aware of the science around climate change, so my daughter kept asking me what I was going to do about it,” she says. “The answer was carbon literacy. We work with local authorities and businesses of all shapes and sizes to educate people about these issues. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and it is making a real difference.
“As well as the climate emergency, there’s the practical day-to-day problem that much of our road network is on the verge of gridlock. So, we push the move to electric, but also the fact that we simply must reduce car use.
“Good public transport is part of the solution, as is active travel. We also look at thorny issues such as car ownership. Officially, the UK carbon footprint per head is about six tonnes, but other estimates put it at double that. People point to China's emissions, but who are they producing for?
“The new leasing options on some EVs, such as those from SAIC-owned MG, are interesting because they bring cleaner fuel cars within the reach of a lot more people. Then, after four years, they will be sold into the secondhand market.
“Our automotive-specific training was developed with Auto Trader. It explains why we have to act now, on both an individual and organisational level. It highlights the power of sharing – how putting two people in a standard car can be as good as having one person in an electric vehicle.
“First, there has to be the provision, then you have to incentivise people to switch. For example, with separate lanes for multi-occupancy vehicles. If alternative modes are faster and cheaper than people will naturally change their behaviours.
“In London, a high percentage of people have already given up their cars, because they’re so expensive and inefficient. Sometimes all you need is a change in attitude.”
Asked to highlight one thing automotive businesses should be more aware of, Snelson immediately replies: “The new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. It’s basically mandated reporting and it’s significant. It’s something consumers will be increasingly interested in, as well as potential investors.”