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Driving change for our customers on the road to net-zero

“Across Serco, we are creating more opportunities for our customers, our colleagues and the public to become carbon neutral. Our local government customers face a significant challenge to drive down carbon emissions. Many have declared climate emergency status. They trust us to bring them meaningful, practical options and to help them implement these and navigate the transition with climate, cost and culture sensitive determination.” 

- Steve Heywood, Director Fleet, Road Transport & Dangerous Goods, Serco Business Services 

Steve Heywood leads the Serco MyFleet Team who oversee the management of all Serco road vehicles in the UK, covering all sectors and including all associated licensing. With a wealth of expertise and experience between them – Steve was Fleet Manager for the Royal Air Force before joining Serco – the team is uniquely positioned to support Serco customers in their transition to net-zero. 

“Coming at the challenge from every angle, we see the whole picture in all dimensions and we’re working hard to bring in carbon reducing capability wherever possible,” says Steve. 

Work to drive down carbon emissions is underway across the whole business in various forms, but the UK road fleet accounts for a significant percentage of Serco’s global emissions. For Steve, tackling that is a personal mission: 

“Helping our clients and my colleagues take significant strides into carbon neutrality would be a career highlight. I look forward to the day we see a whole fleet of electric refuse collection vehicles plugged into a wall.” 

Sustainable progress is far more complex than simply swapping out old vehicles for new, however: 

“Electric fleets are not always an option where local infrastructure is not yet advanced enough to support such heavy dependency. Access to charging facilities is limited in some localities, and in some cases the geographical distances we need to cover can create range issues.”  

Local government investment is required, and infrastructure to support an electric fleet can be prohibitively expensive: 

“The high cost of running electric vehicles still takes people by surprise. It comes down to our opportunity to influence our customers and their appetite for change. We have more influence where we provide our own vehicles, such as in our prisoner escort and some environmental services businesses.” 

Carbon limitation and reduction is embedded in Serco’s approach to expanding and refreshing its fleets, “but we’re constantly looking out for new ideas and interim alternatives. For example: the remanufactured tyres we now use in Serco Environmental Services – the volume of carbon saved in the manufacturing process is phenomenal; or hydrotreated vegetable oil, which has the potential to reduce emissions at tailpipe by 90% and particulate matter by 33%. Nothing is out of scope – we will exhaust every option before accepting the need to use legacy vehicles.” 

In some respects, however, the greatest challenge that Steve and his colleagues face is cultural: 

“The net-zero transition is not just about embracing all the exciting new vehicles, it’s about letting go of everything else we’re comfortable and familiar with, such as the need to think and behave differently about journey planning and how we drive.” 

If the success of the new company car scheme is anything to go by, that may be less of an issue in Serco itself: 

“We’re making electric and hybrid travel more accessible for all roles requiring car travel – something our people might not be able to afford otherwise. For those who strive to make a difference as an individual, this gives them that opportunity and it’s proving to be very popular.” 

Elsewhere, though, understanding the cultural challenges is critical to sustainable change, as is working hard to bring people on the journey: 

“We look for opportunities to introduce better practice. For example, our coastal toilet cleaning vans in North Norfolk. We realised that we could install charging stations on the toilet buildings, for our teams to charge their vehicles while they’re working inside. We’ve done that at a couple of sites. It took some convincing to get everybody onboard and willing to give it a go, but the client supported the proposal and we’re making it happen.”