Scope 3 Emissions and the Role of Bikes in Corporate Sustainability

Large corporations and universities have been concerned with the impacts on the climate long before the latest IPCC report. Google, for instance, stated it was carbon neutral by 2007 and plans to be carbon free by 2030. Many organizations have dedicated serious resources to tracking and reducing the environmental harm they create in the course of doing business. Check out “Sustainable Stanford” or “Sustainability at Meta” for summaries of these kinds of efforts. 

The focus in recent years has shifted to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by corporations, specifically on a type called “Scope 3” which includes employee transportation. For those outside the corporate sustainability world, Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions relate to greenhouse gasses that can be directly or indirectly attributed to an organization. For a quick primer, here’s how the Environmental Protection Agency defines the different categories and examples of how each relates to cars and bicycles: 

Scope What is it? How cars contribute How bikes contribute
1 Direct greenhouse (GHG) emissions that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization Tailpipe emissions from fleet vehicles Particles that come off campus fleet bike tires as they wear
2 Indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling Electricity powering electric fleet vehicles Electricity powering fleet e-bikes
3 Also considered indirect, these emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts in its value chain. Tailpipe emissions from employee commutes, emissions resulting from production of cars themselves – for instance, if a car contains 3 tons of steel, account for the energy and GHG emissions associated with the production of that steel; repeat for other components plus materials needed for maintenance, repair, and end-of-life scenarios. Electricity powering e-bikes used for employee commutes, emissions resulting from production of bicycles themselves – for instance, if a bike contains 10 pounds of aluminum, account for the energy and GHG emissions associated with the production of that aluminum; repeat for other components plus materials needed for maintenance, repair, and end-of-life scenarios.

Corporations have already spent time and energy curbing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and have turned their attention to Scope 3, including those generated by employee commuting and transportation/distribution of goods.” As transportation professionals, this is where we come in! 

At Bikes Make Life Better, we know all the ways that bikes contribute to the solution. In light of this focus on Scope 3 emissions, here are ways to shift solo drivers to commuting by bike. 

  • Incentives: When it comes to incentives, we’ve found cash to be the best motivator. For instance, the Gates Foundation took its drive alone rate from 90 percent to 34 percent in two years by charging for parking and offering a $3 daily reward for not driving alone. If you can’t offer cash, gift cards are a great alternative that feel the most like money. 
  • Education: For many “interested-but-concerned” potential bikers, it’s not knowing how to do it easily and safely that keeps them driving day in and day out. Hosting bike education classes is a way to bridge that gap.
  • End of Trip Facilities (EOT): This is more than a simple U-rack outside your building lobby. Building high-end bike facilities—that include secure bike and gear storage, showers, lockers, and more—will increase the likelihood that employees will bike to work.
  • Shared Bikes: Having bikes to loan to employees—either for on-campus trips or for commute transportation—can really help employees make the shift to riding. 
  • Events: Classes will help build confidence, but events, like bike fairs, demo days and guided rides, really make biking fun. 
  • Employee Communications & 1:1 Support: Use internal channels or your corporate portal to ensure employees have access to what they need. Then be available for questions, either via a support email, a ticketing system, or in some other frictionless way

For more information, including best practices, on each of these approaches, see The Bike Pathway For Low Carbon Companies guide.

We know from experience that there’s no single approach to making your workplace and employees less reliant on cars and more bike-friendly. It takes many and varied ways to create a comprehensive bike program and coordination with other internal groups—like sustainability. Luckily, that’s just what we do!

Need help developing a company bike program that will help combat climate change? Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. They’ve helped design bike programs for some of the world’s most innovative companies, including Meta, Salesforce, Airbnb, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Netflix, and many others.