Why EV is a B2B strategy, not a stunt

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We're at a crossroads on climate change - and the choices companies make today will chart the map of the future. Corporations are taking a serious look at the growing trend of making electric vehicles (EVs) a core part of their sustainability strategy.

Anja Khalamayzer
7 March 20227 mins
Sustainability b2b strategy

"Companies must understand and prioritize EVs in their B2B strategy because that's where the fleets are," said Kevin Hagen, Iron Mountain's Vice President of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Strategy. "Fleet operations are where EVs can have the most impact on carbon reductions within the transportation sector."

That's why Iron Mountain is making B2B EV fleets "business as usual." We're transitioning 10% of our total fleet to electric by 2025, and as part of EV100, we pledged to use 100% electric cars and 50% electric vans by 2030. By normalizing corporate electric transportation, we can put the brakes on global warming, meet our sustainability goals, and unlock business benefits.

Corporate EV fleets can slow climate change

A red light flashing on your dashboard means that your engine is overheating and you should stop your vehicle immediately. The most recent climate change data is sending a similar warning signal.

According to the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, human-caused climate change is on track to surpass 2°C of global warming, which will further increase the intensity and frequency of extreme heat, heavy rains, droughts and storms. Corporate fleets are part of the problem, but they are also part of the solution to keeping global warming at or below 1.5°C.

Fleets make up a quarter of vehicles on the road, but they contribute two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions from road transport. Even light-duty vehicles account for 26% of global road transport emissions. Companies can help limit global warming by electrifying their fleets.

Investing in EVs is part of our commitment to achieving Net Zero emissions by 2040. We've already found that it is possible to decouple growth from carbon intensity while maintaining a profitable business: While our data centers have tripled in energy consumption since 2016, their emissions decreased by over 60% after we began supplying them with 100% renewable wind and solar energy. As Iron Mountain's emissions dropped, our fleet emerged as a top polluter, and we began shifting gears.

"Our plan is to prove that EVs can help us decarbonize, serve our customers, and offer advantages that gas-guzzling vehicles don't have," said Hagen.

A formal EV program can save money

In 2020, an EDF Climate Corps fellow helped us define a fleet electrification strategy and set up a cross-divisional steering committee including senior leaders from the fleet, facilities operations, finance and several other departments working together towards EV fleet integration.

"There is a strong business case for EVs when you look at the total cost of ownership," said Yulia Roman, Program Manager, Global Operations Support at Iron Mountain, who oversees the EV Program. "They can help us save money, not just break even."

We began testing EVs to see how well they work in the real world. Our first pilot will be in London, which has a congestion charge on motor vehicles that exempts EVs. After testing how electric vans performed compared to diesel when faced with different payloads, weather conditions, distances, and rural and urban routes, we found electric vans could perform many of our routes without loss of productivity.

Next, we're rolling out EV vans in locations including several countries in Europe, North America and Singapore. From there, we plan to shift our focus and expand our strategy to tackle our truck fleets. However, they're not a drop-in replacement for regular vehicles. Roman cautions that companies must be strategic, for example implementing EVs in locations that offer government grants and incentives that can close the gap on the upfront cost.

"You should be informed about where and how you start to electrify," she said. "Testing your own vehicles and finding out how they meet your business needs is crucial to getting started incorporating EVs in your B2B strategy."

To go farther, faster, go together

We've already exceeded our 2021 goal of adding 23 EVs, with 32 already received or on order, taking our fleet to over 50 EVs — to meet our EV100 goals we expect to have some 2,000 vehicles by 2030. But we didn't do it alone. To unlock barriers to large-scale fleet electrification, we brought on a charging partner and joined a global network calling for EV action.

We can't serve customers if our vehicles aren't charged. In 2021, Iron Mountain brought on a dedicated vendor who is helping us smoothly integrate charging hardware into our operations. They help us understand our charging needs and execute the installation of chargers in the locations we plan to roll out EV’s.

And we can't achieve mass-market roll-out of EVs without support from other companies and governments. By joining the EV100 global initiative, we're part of a movement of the world's biggest corporations signaling demand for increased investment, production capacity, and charging infrastructure for owned and contracted fleets.

"We're sending a clear signal to the market that companies aren't in the 'if they build it, they will come" phase with EVs, but that we're already here," said Hagen. "We are thinking about whole-system change."