By: Kevin Nesbitt, CTO at carbonBLU.
It’s no secret, companies and government agencies like to be seen doing the right thing. Cleaning up their fleet operations is one highly-visible way to broadcast their commitment to the environment. Take a short drive and you’re likely to see vehicles with words like “clean energy”, “low emissions”, or “green fleet” in careful juxtaposition with the company logo. It’s a smart move; these ubiquitous rolling billboards are effective marketing tools. Organizations are also seeking and receiving recognition in other ways for their efforts to operate in a more sustainable manner. But what is a sustainable fleet? Up to now, it’s been left to the consumer to figure out hype from fact. Likewise, it’s been left up to the fleet manager to figure out the best way to achieve the concomitant goals of reducing fuel consumption, increasing operational efficiency, and mitigating environmental impacts. The recently-launched North America Fleet Association’s (NAFA) Sustainable Fleet Accreditation Program provides some guidance for both consumers and fleet operators. It provides consumers assurance through verification that the fleet is generating environmental benefits (much like the energy star label on household appliances). It also helps fleets – regardless of size and sophistication – to improve operational efficiency and lower costs.
Trust but Verify
Previously, there has been no referee to validate a fleet’s environmental actions and no benchmark against which to measure their progress. Like the early days of “organic” food labeling, the absence of a widely-accepted certification process has allowed certain buzz words to be hijacked for greenwashing and branding purposes. Unfortunately, this dilutes the notable accomplishments of fleets truly committed to the environment. The NAFA accreditation program addresses this through a four-tier certification program – thus assuring those that do more, get more recognition. There are no barriers to participation and every fleet is encouraged to enroll, regardless of their familiarity with environmentally-sound fleet practices. Those that successfully enroll by submitting a plan, along with a few key fleet metrics and reference data points, will be eligible for accreditation. Fleets even have some liberty in choosing a baseline year from which their progress will be measured. Each enrolled fleet receives a score which is as much a reflection of their proposed actions as past accomplishments. The scoring methodology is designed to be transparent and the final score determines what level of accreditation is awarded (Tier 1-4). Accredited fleets will receive documentation (something to share with supervisors), a NAFA Accreditation Program sticker (to share with the world), and a two-year license for rights to use the accreditation and related-materials for promotional purposes. It is expected that most fleets will re-enroll after two years. Although not an exact science, the accreditation process does employ a more scientific approach to ensuring environmental claims are real and verifiable.
Implementing an Effective, Sustainable Fleet Plan
Perhaps a more important function of the program is to support fleets in their efforts to reduce emissions, improve operating efficiency, and minimize petroleum consumption. It does not replace a custom-designed and carefully implemented fleet optimization program, however, NAFA accreditation is one of many tools that can be used to measure the effectiveness of various strategies and adopted practices. It can help provide program guidance and ensure adherence to fleet policies. The accreditation program is not intended to create competition among participants but it does provide a means for measuring improvement relative to other fleets. Scorecards are kept confidential but enrollees can use score averages to gauge their progress, vis-a-vis other fleets operating in the same geographical region or with similar operations. Some of the fleets participating in the initial accreditation pilot program were surprised to learn that practices and technologies they considered to be cutting edge were, in fact, commonplace. The program will make it easier for fleets to share experiences and lessons learned.
The NAFA Fleet Accreditation Program is intended to supplement, not replace fleet optimization plans. It is a tool that can be used with any customized plan to measure and verify progress. Fleet decision-makers may find it useful for finding intra-organizational support for new fleet policies and practices. It is also a means of validation that can convey a strong message of environmental commitment to the public. Take the first step towards becoming a fleet leader by contacting carbonBLU. We will work with you to develop a tailored fleet optimization plan and enroll you in the NAFA accreditation program so you can start getting credit for your efforts, immediately.
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