Taking a bold stance on sustainability
We speak to Sandra Roling, head of EV100 –The Climate Group’s global initiative bringing together companies committed to accelerating the transition to electric vehicles – to find out why 2021 is the year of climate action.
- Why have so many logistics companies expanded their commitment to sustainability?
These days, sustainability is an integral part of corporate strategy development. Companies that make sustainability commitments tend to be better run because you’re looking at the future more holistically and that plays back into other areas. It is also increasingly what consumers want to hear about the brands they use. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen brands take more and more stances on important issues in a way that they wouldn’t have done before. By taking the responsibility for their carbon footprint seriously, companies are effectively future proofing their businesses. Additionally, sustainability measures are often cost-savers in the long-run. While the upfront cost of EVs is still higher than a petrol or diesel vehicle, many of our members are already seeing savings over the lifespan of their vehicles because of the savings on fuel, maintenance and repair.
- How has the organisation kept the momentum going with its members during the pandemic?
If the COVID crisis has shown us anything, it’s that the role of non-state actors has never been more crucial. Businesses are often setting agendas that far outstrip the ambitions of their national counterparts. The pandemic has made a lot of people think about climate change and come to terms with the scale of the impact it could have. But it has also provided an example of how we have the capacity for change at the pace and scale needed for climate action already. That’s why despite the challenges of the pandemic, EV100 has continued to attract new members and our existing members have continued to deliver against their targets and milestones while providing a strong network to send powerful messages to governments, policymakers, and vehicle manufacturers alike.
- Which Posts are doing particularly well?
Austrian Post and Swiss Post both announced the move to fully electric fleets by 2030 when they joined EV100. Austrian Post – the largest logistics business in Austria – will switch more than 9,000 vehicles to electric, while Swiss Post will transition its 10,000 vehicles to electric by 2030. Both companies are also rethinking their delivery chain by using e-cargo bikes to more efficiently navigate city centres and reduce congestion as well as air pollution.
- What can the industry learn from them?
Companies must be willing to act and seize the opportunity to drive change in their sectors and accelerate change. They need to set ambitious goals and ensure that their whole business model is aligned to deliver against those targets. Secondly, companies must be willing to innovate – to stay competitive or risk losing out on the opportunity to play their part in tackling climate change and reducing air pollution. Thirdly, companies need to recognise that consumers increasingly want to know that the brands they use are taking a clear stance on important issues around sustainability and climate change. And fourth, collaboration is crucial – challenges can be much more easily addressed when working together with other, likeminded leaders.
- With e-commerce growing so rapidly over the last year why is this movement more important than ever?
The number one driver for corporate EV action is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is not surprising given the unprecedented prominence of climate change on the political agenda. By committing to switch their fleets to electric by 2030, and influencing employers and customers to do the same, EV100 members are sending a bold demand signal to the market, while benefiting from a global platform to showcase corporate leadership and enable best practice sharing to overcome challenges together. This is even more important with the international climate negotiations (COP26) taking place in November this year – providing existing and future EV100 members with a critical opportunity to lead from the front as they commit to going electric.
- What additional challenges has the pandemic brought to rolling out EVs?
The pandemic has, if anything, encouraged many businesses to see it as their responsibility to build a greener and fairer future. Despite COVID uncertainty, the number of EVs on the road operated by EV100 businesses has risen to 169,000 vehicles – over twice the number in 2019. Early last summer we surveyed members who are part of our business campaigns, including EV100, to assess the impact of COVID. 97% said their long-term sustainability strategy had not changed, while 80% said their company had been able to maintain their current climate actions during the peak of the crisis last year.
- How has the charging infrastructure improved over the last year?
There has been huge progress from our EV100 members in the provision of charging infrastructure at their premises. In the last year, there has been an 84% increase in the number of locations and the number of individual charge points has increased by 79% to 16,882. EV100 members are also increasing the prevalence of renewables to power their charging infrastructure. 89% of our members are powering their charging with at least some renewables, and 50% of members are using 100% renewable electricity. Members are also continuing to develop innovative technology and solutions for charging. Delta Electronics, for example, has developed a charging station in Yokohama, Japan, capable of assisting as a disaster response base through energy storage.
- Which countries are doing particularly well and why do you think that is?
Policy frameworks play a crucial role in enabling strong electrification ambitions. Many countries including China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Korea, Spain and the UK have already set national targets for EV deployment. Over a dozen national governments have also announced a phase-out date on fossil fuel vehicles. Amongst others, France will ban all new combustion-engine vehicles by 2040, the UK and the Netherlands by 2030 and Norway by 2025. Governments that support EV market development drive EV uptake among businesses and consumers alike. Sub-national governments are doing the same – California alone plans to put 5 million zero-emission vehicles onto the road by 2025.
- What are the remaining obstacles to take-up?
EV100 members reported lack of charging infrastructure (67%), lack of the correct vehicle type (64%) and upfront capital cost (58%) as the most significant barriers. Although EV100 members are stepping up to support EV uptake by staff and customers, further support and investment from governments and the private sector is required to accelerate the wider transition and develop national and local charging infrastructure plans.
The lack of availability of the correct vehicle type is the primary challenge for members when it comes to vehicles. The primary vehicle types that companies are lacking are light-commercial and heavy-duty vehicles. Although the number of electric commercial vehicles deployed by EV100 members is increasing, demand continues to outstrip supply. However, there are signs things are changing. With numbers of new electric commercial vehicle models expected to continue to grow and big orders being fulfilled, particularly in the UK, we are starting to see the market shifting.
- How has the attitude towards the initiative changed since you launched it?
The confidence that companies have in EV technology is growing all the time with many EV members committing to electrification of their fleets ahead of the national targets set by their respective governments. Elsewhere, companies are increasingly looking to tackle the barriers to EVs themselves rather than wait for the solutions to come to them. IKEA, for example, went directly to the auto manufacturers (Renault and MAN) to develop a bespoke delivery vehicle specific to their needs, supporting them on their journey to achieve zero emission deliveries globally by 2025. It only took them six months from the first conversation to having the pilot on the road – clearly demonstrating that the technology is there to make things possible for companies willing to put in the extra effort.
- What are your hopes for the initiative?
First, we want to continue to grow and attract new members who want to make a difference – and are prepared to act now and deliver real change to their fleets and business model. Over the last year, some of the world’s biggest and best-known businesses have come on board from a diverse range of sectors – including Tesco, Siemens and Coca Cola European Partners as well as the US ridesharing company Lyft and Indian’s largest ecommerce business Flipkart. We look forward to working with existing and new members, sharing learnings and best practice and providing a powerful platform from which they can showcase strong global corporate leadership. Secondly, with the UN climate conference COP26 due in Glasgow at the end of the year – and clean transport set as one of its priority themes, 2021 is the year of climate action. We need businesses to lead from the front. Now is the time for every company with a fleet or an employee car scheme to join EV100 and commit to going electric.
- What does the initiative personally mean to you?
I am incredibly proud to be part of a global movement which is driving real and tangible change to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and create a greener and more sustainable future. In just a few years, EV100 has rapidly grown in size and scale from a handful of companies in 2017 to now more than 100 in over 80 markets, capturing the imagination of some of the biggest businesses in the world. Working alongside my team, it is a real privilege to lead EV100 and play our part in supporting business to transition to clean energy and help the EV revolution power ahead.
About Sandra Roling
Sandra is head of EV100, a global leadership platform bringing together major companies committed to accelerating the switch to electric transport to make it ‘the new normal’ by 2030. She also leads the development of the Climate Group’s broader work on electro-mobility and clean transport.
Sandra has held various positions in developing the Climate Group’s engagement work with business as well as state and regional governments. She was also part of the founding secretariat for the We Mean Business coalition.
Previously, Sandra spent eight years in Brussels, where she led the public affairs team of a German political communications agency and set up its EU office. She holds a BA in European Studies from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, as well as an MA in Central and Eastern European Studies from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland and an MSc in Sustainable Development from the University of Exeter, UK.