Transforming how we move for work is increasingly gaining limelight in the overall discourse on decarbonizing transport across the globe. Especially post-COVID-19 disruptions on workplace travel, many organizations are re-looking at their employees’ daily commute to the offices and their business travel patterns to understand their carbon emission profile in detail. Indeed, it is estimated that out of the four key carbon emitting areas within an organization (waste, energy, purchase and transport), transport is a significant contributor, with long-distance business travel alone accounting for a significant portion of vehicles miles travelled (VMT) and Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The broad global commitment to the Paris Agreement and the increasing adoption of the Science Based Targets initiatives (SBTi) by several organizations are also acting as catalysts for sustainable transportation initiatives essential to address the climate change crisis. Additionally, looking from an individual level perspective, a recent study also suggests that sustainable mobility options improve employee productivity, well-being and satisfaction while simultaneously reducing everyday commuting stress in the cities.

Yet, climate science and carbon accounting are complex topics, and for many organizations, documenting and preparing an emission reduction plan can be challenging and may seem like a daunting task. Below are a few pointers that uncover the complexity behind carbon emission documentation that organizations should consider before starting their journey towards sustainable mobility.

Overview of the GHG Protocol Scopes & Emissions

Calculating and analyzing an organization’s GHG emissions is usually called GHG emissions inventory. The protocols for maintaining and reporting such inventory are laid down by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol), the most widely used international standard for corporate accounting. As per the protocol, the following are the ten steps that an organization need to undertake for designing and managing their GHG inventory:

  1. Setting business goals and inventory design
  2. Setting organizational boundaries
  3. Setting operational boundaries
  4. Identify GHG emission sources
  5. Select a GHG calculation approach
  6. Collect activity data and choose emission factors
  7. Apply calculation tools
  8. Roll up GHG emission data to the corporate level
  9. Accounting GHG reductions
  10. Reporting & Verification of GHG emissions

Among the various steps mentioned above, identifying GHG emission sources requires a basic understanding of the concept of ‘Scope’. The GHG protocol introduces and defines three key ‘scopes’ to help delineate direct and indirect emission sources and improve transparency. They are briefly explained below in the context of transportation:

Scope Theme Detail

Scope 1

Direct Emissions From ICE vehicles owned or controlled by the reporting company

Scope 2

Indirect Emissions-owned/controlled From the generation of the purchased electricity used for electric vehicles owned/controlled by the reporting company.

Scope 3

Indirect Emissions-not owned/controlled From vehicles NOT owned or controlled by the reporting company, e.g. staff personal vehicle/ taxi/ aircraft/ train/bus, etc. (external mobility service providers)

Scope 1 and 2 are mandatory for organizations to report. While scope 3 is voluntary, challenging to monitor and usually represents the major proportion of GHG contribution as it includes both upstream (activities occurring before a direct operation such as purchase of goods and services, extraction of raw material, business travel, etc. ) and downstream (activities occurring after a direct operation such as transportation and distribution of goods, waste generated, use of sold products etc. ) activities within an organization’s value chain. The emissions from business travel (from non-company vehicles) and employee commuting fall under scope 3. Let’s understand what all needs to be collected as part of such documentation.

What data to collect for Business Travel?

Specific data points are required to document your business travel emissions accurately. These points depend on the chosen calculation method (fuel-based, distance-based, or spend-based) and the transportation mode used (flight, public transport, taxi, etc.). Below is the list of required key data points:

S. No. Primary Data Points Unit Secondary Data Points Unit Calculation Method
1 Quantity of fuel consumed Liters Emission Factor for the fuel Kg CO2e/liter Fuel-based

(most accurate for CO2 emission calculations)

2 Quantity of electricity consumed (in the case of EVs) Kilowatt-hour (kWh) Emission factor for the electricity grid kg CO2e/kWh
3 Total distance travelled by vehicle type Vehicular-km or passenger-km Vehicle-specific emission factor kg CO2e/vehicle-km or Kg CO2e/passenger-km Distance-based

(most accurate for CH4 & N20 emission calculations)

4 Amount spent on transportation by type Local currency Relevant EEIO emission factors per unit of economic value kg CO2e/local currency Spend-based
5 Number of hotel night stays n.a. Hotel emission factor kg CO2e/night  Optional

What data to collect for workplace commute?

Similar to the business travel emission calculations, for employee commute, depending upon the selected method for calculation (fuel-based/ distance-based/ average-data method), the following are the key data points that are essential for accurate documentation:

S. No. Primary Data Points Unit Secondary Data Points Unit Calculation Method
1 Quantity of fuel consumed Liters Emission Factor for the fuel Kg CO2e/liter Fuel-based

(most accurate for CO2 emission calculations)

2 Quantity of electricity consumed (in case of EVs) Kilowatt-hour (kWh) Emission factor for the electricity grid kg CO2e/kWh
3 Total distance travelled by vehicle type Vehicular-km or passenger-km Vehicle-specific emission factor kg CO2e/vehicle-km or Kg CO2e/passenger-km Distance-based

(most accurate for CH4 & N20 emission calculations)

4 Distance from home to office Km n.a. n.a.
5 Number of days employees commuting to work per week n.a. n.a. n.a.
6 Type and number of modes of transport used for commuting n.a. n.a. n.a.
7 Number of employees n.a. n.a. n.a. Average-data method
8 Average distance travelled by an average employee per day Vehicular-km or passenger-km n.a. n.a.
9 Average breakdown of transport modes used by employees % Vehicle-specific emission factor kg CO2e/vehicle-km or Kg CO2e/passenger-km
10 Average number of working days per year n.a. n.a. n.a.
11 Quantities of energy consumed while working from home Kilowatt-hour (kWh) Emission factor for energy source kg CO2e/kWh Optional

The best way to capture data on employees’ daily commutes is to use trip dairy. A trip diary is a tool used by transportation researchers and practitioners for decades to gather detailed information on participants’ travel patterns over a specific period in a structured diary format. This information is then analyzed to understand travel demand, mode choices, trip purposes, origin-destination relationships, and other key aspects of travel behaviour. Research has shown that this survey tool is quite reliable when examining overall commuting trends while for investigating individual-level commuting behaviours, passive mobility data are more suitable.

Establishing Sustainable Workplace Travel Plans (WTPs)

Irrespective of the tools and calculation methods employed, once insights on work mobility trends are obtained, the next most suitable approach is strategizing ways to reduce carbon emissions through establishing sustainable Workplace Travel Plans or WTPs. It contains a list of measures specifically designed for an organization aiming to encourage commuting by sustainable transport modes among the employees and includes the realization of several programs, initiatives, and investments. A sustainable WTP focuses on the movement of people, not on the vehicles they use. The most common measures are:

  • Promoting walking, cycling and public transport
  • Car-share and car-pooling
  • Car parking management
  • Using technology to reduce the need to travel (e.g., remote meetings)
  • Flexible working hours and remote work
  • Reducing the need to travel

The employee may also nominate a designated employee Mobility Manager. The most suitable measures may vary among organizations and depend on the employee requirements, employer willingness and site-specific opportunities. WTPs are increasingly gaining popularity across several countries. For instance, in France, WTPs are mandatory for companies with over 100 employees located in population centres with more than 100,000 inhabitants and in cities where Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) are required. Similarly, many cities in the United Kingdom have also started providing guidance on preparing WTPs for organizations and developing regulations for their implementation. Overall, if developed appropriately and implemented strategically, WTPs can offer organizations the opportunity to achieve their sustainability targets while taking a step towards net zero green transportation.

Our work at Cities Forum

To address the complexities of developing carbon inventory and establishing WTPs, we at CITIES FORUM have developed a carbon emissions calculator tool that captures the emissions from workplace travel and business travel and automatically provides the total CO2 emissions. The Excel-based tool runs on a complex back-end calculation that is user-friendly for participants to fill in their travel diaries and does not need a platform-based subscription. We are simultaneously working on mobile-based applications and other digital survey formats that can assist in capturing emissions more efficiently across the corporate structure in both the Global North and Global South contexts. Considering the organizational sustainability goals and targets, size, structure, boundaries, data privacy laws and work trip frequencies, we deliver tailored solutions centred around flexibility, innovation, and convenience for a net zero future.

For more details on our current sustainable work travel projects and to know more about how we can help your organization reach its transportation sustainability targets, please feel free to reach out at



Dr. Megha Tyagi, Senior Transport Planner


Image courtesy: Airam Datoon by Pexels

Megha Tyagi

About Megha Tyagi

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Dr. Megha is a gender and inclusive mobility expert with over seven years of experience in developing and managing inclusive, sustainable urban development and mobility projects. Over the years, she has worked in internationally reputed research institutions, non-governmental organizations, and design firms and as a freelance research consultant to international organizations across South Asia and Europe. Based out of India & Germany, her current work area includes transport decarbonization, electric mobility, public transport, active mobility planning, child-friendly planning, and gender-inclusive mobility.

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