John Chuhan, chief risk officer at Alphabet, says organisations which embrace low and zero emission sustainable approaches in 2017 will be the winners in the medium to long term.

The past few years I’ve read numerous predictions that this is a generation of unprecedented change for the automotive and mobility industry – both in the scale of technological and societal developments (happening whether we like them or not), but also in the pace of this change and the demands they place on our industry to respond.

Well, I think 2017 will be a year where we truly start to see the changes which have been discussed at length and predicted for so long really start to be felt. Unless you haven’t been watching the news recently, you’ll understand that air quality isn’t just a transport issue anymore. It’s an important public health issue for national and local politicians, media, the electorate and increasingly for consumers. A recent high court ruling gave DEFRA until July 2017 to produce a more ambitious plan to improve UK air quality. With air quality and emissions being high on the political and social agenda, it’s therefore a priority for public and private sector leaders – with their organisation’s vehicle fleets, especially diesels, firmly in the spotlight.

This is not a ‘London-specific’ issue either. There are ‘Clean Air’ zones planned for Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby – as well as the ultra-low emission zone coming in London. If successful, surely more will follow.

In 2017 we’ve got big changes coming in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) in April and Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) for new vehicles from September. Further down the line, EU6d regulations and Real Driving Emissions (RDE) are coming too. As well as the headline grabbing references to autonomous vehicle research and drones, the Modern Transport Bill earlier this year outlined the strategic direction for the country with zero emission and ULEVs at its core.

Despite inconsistencies in our company car tax framework regarding ULEVs and big questions around how HMRC taxation will treat changes like WLTP, there is a clear strategic direction of travel for business leaders. On the positive side, we’re seeing huge advances in battery technology from Renault and Jaguar among others, as well as the vanguard of practical benefits from connected car platforms by OEMs. So ultimately those organisations which embrace low and zero emission, sustainable approaches in 2017 will be the winners in the medium to long term.