The car hire industry has been criticised for many years over a poor environmental record. Campaigners have argued that the use of a hire car means the traveller is journeying in a selfish non-environmentally friendly fashion, claiming that if the traveller was to take public transport the impact upon the environment would be lessened to some extent. What campaigners negate to realise is that public transport is not always an option, in rural areas sometimes car hire is the only solution.
A rather weak argument developed by the car hire industry is that the use of a hire car is a valid and friendlier alternative to car ownership. Car ownership however is growing and if the car hire industry wants this argument to hold water, they have a long way to go. Thankfully the industry is making moves towards greener options when hiring cars, this conscience can be seen as a general response to a wider growth in concern over the impact the human race is having on the planet.
One move is an attempt to provide greater options for greener cars. This involves car hire companies investing in the acquisition of fleets of hybrid and low emission cars that have a less detrimental effect on the environment. For example the Swedish franchise of a large car hire company have invested in four hundred ethanol powered cars whilst in the United States over a thousand hybrid cars have been introduced by the same company. The name of the game is to reduce the emissions produced by the fleet by making a large constituent of the fleet either bio-fuel or hybrid cars.
Another major initiative by car hire companies is to publish information on the carbon emissions from each car in their fleet at the time of hiring. This is hoped that customers will see the environmental impacts in black and white and will respond by making greener choices. This has been heralded as a major step in the car hire industry; although not enforcing greener choices upon customers the pursuit of this policy subtly puts the choices into customer minds. As it is believed that most people have some form of environmental conscience, the move is hoped to reduce emissions as customers will readily adopt cars with fewer emissions.
Another tactic being fiercely pursued in the car hire industry is carbon offsetting. This process involves the company accounting for all of the carbon produced in the form of emissions by the entire company. The ways in which the carbon is being accounted for includes planting swathes of trees to create new woodland habitats and financing greener energy production techniques as well as new eco-friendly agricultural methods. The ultimate hope of a carbon offsetting policy is to make a company carbon neutral through a combination of these strategies.
The process of carbon offsetting is not yet however standard; seemingly, although car hire companies are heading down this route there is usually a premium to make your journey carbon neutral. Once again it is about providing the consumer with the choice of being eco-friendly, no company is going to increase their prices and forcibly ensure their customers are conscious of environmental concerns. Unfortunately there will always be a competitor who is willing to undercut their prices at the expense of the environment.
Although some players in the car hire industry can be applauded for their environmental efforts the changes are in no way widespread. Unfortunately for company executives the pursuit of eco-friendly policies is usually less cost effective than regular strategies. At least the industry can say it is trying, providing people with the option of being eco-friendly through carbon offsetting and cars run on less harmful fuels is a step forward. As long as most of us are willing to save the environment for the sake of our wallets, the transition to a completely environmentally friendly car hire industry should be possible.