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Quantifying the Carbon Footprint of a Field Sales Rep

Friday 8 November 2019 Field Force Planning

Stewart Moody and Stephen Britnell's picture
By Stewart Moody and Stephen Britnell

Field teams don’t have to be the enemy of climate change

30 years ago, the carbon footprint of your field team of reps wasn’t even a consideration. Fuel costs were a matter of interest to finance as a budget line, but the cost to the environment wasn’t high on anyone’s commercial agenda.

In 2019 that’s all changed. Greta Thunberg’s high-profile climate strikes are the culmination of a move to prioritise green issues and the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, stated that the world is "nowhere near where it needs to be" on the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Consumption of the world’s resources is a critical issue and every organisation is publicly accountable for its actions and attitudes to climate change. Already, some consumers and businesses are beginning to reject products and services provided by organisations that don’t take their carbon footprint seriously.


You need accurate data

How do responsible organisations square the contradiction of a car-based rep fleet with its environmental obligations, when face-to-face visits are proven to deliver results? By understanding how field sales contribute to carbon emissions we can understand how to reduce them.

In this blog we measure the carbon footprint of a typical field rep and suggest ways to reduce carbon emissions while maintaining daily call rates. Leveraging technology ensures that both the environment and the business can win. We'd like to dispel the myth that the two are mutually exclusive.


Being a field sales rep doubles a person’s CO2 footprint

Let’s take a moment to say that again - being a field sales rep doubles a person’s CO2 footprint.

The average person in the world’s ten largest economies has a carbon footprint of 9.14 tonnes per year ( CACI has calculated that being a field sales rep adds a further 9.6 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Try CACI’s Field Force planning efficiency calculator to work out your own team’s carbon footprint.

Those field sales emissions are made up of primary and secondary sources. Your primary carbon footprint covers direct emissions under your control: specifically, mileage. We consider it within your control because if you plan visits more efficiently then you reduce emissions. Mileage is the biggest single contributor at five tonnes per year. The secondary carbon footprint represents the emissions associated with the consumption of goods and services.


Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Now we know the size of the challenge we can look at ways to reduce it. Offsetting is a positive policy in the short term. With a transparent and reliable measure of CO2 emitted during the course of your reps’ business miles, you can calculate the offsetting activities needed.

Organisations like Climate Care and myclimate sell carbon offsetting credits to companies, allowing them to assume carbon neutral status.

It’s an act of corporate responsibility but isn’t it better to reduce those emissions in the first place rather than offset them? We think you should reduce everywhere you can, and then offset the remainder.


Optimise routes

Let’s look at the major contributor, mileage, which is the area most businesses focus on. You could make a reduction by visiting fewer customers, but that isn’t a viable option because revenue and customer service will suffer. The best solution is to improve the efficiency of the rep’s call schedules. CACI’s CallSmart software is proven to reduce driving by 22%. That would reduce the carbon footprint of a typical rep by the significant amount of one tonne of CO2 per year.

CACI’s InSite FieldForce software can reveal inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the definitions of your territories, showing how you can redesign or tweak them for optimal carbon management as well as using reps’ time most effectively and reducing the running costs of your fleet with lower overall mileages.


Recruit in ideal locations

Another way to significantly reduce mileage is to recruit in the right locations. The knee-jerk reaction when hiring for a vacant territory is to recruit in the same place as before. It’s better to periodically optimise your territories, with flexibility in the home location for vacancies. This can halve the commuter driving of a territory (which accounts for around half of a typical rep’s mileage) and save 2.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.


Maximise the productivity of the team you have

Secondary emissions may be an area where you feel you lack control. After all, reps need equipment and resources to do their job. That’s true, but what you can influence is your headcount. Each time you add a person to your team, you add 4.6 tonnes in secondary emissions.

By being more efficient with the team you already have, you may be able to visit more customers. CACI studies show that an average field team is utilised at 84%. We recommend working at 90% utilisation (as discussed in this blog). We can show you how to transition to 90% so that the team can make more visits for you without being overstretched.


That’s not all folks!

If we sum up all the benefits of working with CACI, then a typical field team of 34 reps can reduce their annual carbon footprint by 52 tonnes of CO2 per year. Follow this link to see how we helped Nestlé slash their emissions by removing 1,700,000 km from their annual fuel bill.

Get in touch if you’d like to exploit CACI’s 30 years of experience in Field Force Optimisation to help you reduce your carbon footprint.




The secondary emissions required typical expenditure to be entered, here are our sources:

  • Smart phone - average selling price for a smartphone is now $363 (£300). (Source)
  • Phone calls - £15 per month, assumed average cost of business calls per month
  • Overnights - £750 per year, based on 1 per month in a hotel costing £62.50 per night
  • IT equipment - £1000, assumed average cost of laptop and/or tablet
  • Car lease - £3500 (Source)

The primary emissions of mileage were based on a typical field worker driving an average diesel car 17,500 miles per year and the following assumptions:

  • Team size (indicates size of territory) = 34
  • Call cycle = 8 weeks
  • Average number of callpoints per territory = 60
  • Average visits per territory = 160
  • Average calls per day = 3.8
  • Average cycle mileage per territory = 2926 miles

30 years ago, the carbon footprint of your field team of reps wasn’t even a consideration. Fuel costs were a matter of interest to finance as a budget line, but the cost to the environment wasn’t high on anyone’s commercial agenda.

Quantifying the Carbon Footprint of a Field Sales Rep