Alexander Maki: Using employee benefits to combat climate change

Alexander Maki

As concern about climate change increases around the globe, many organisations are aiming to take action.

There are many ways for employers to decrease their carbon footprints, such as buying renewable energy, improving energy and fuel efficiency in their operations, and exerting influence on their supply chain. However, one underappreciated strategy is helping their own employees live more sustainably.

These ’employee energy benefits’ can both help combat climate change and improve employee morale.

In Employee energy benefits: What are they and what effects do they have on employees? published in July 2017, my colleagues and I chronicled the numerous ways in which employers have been supporting their employees with their environmental efforts.

Some strategies have been around for decades, such as subsidising the use of public transportation. Other strategies, however, are relatively new, like offering subsidies to employees to help them purchase their own hybrid vehicle or even buy home solar panels.

There are many reasons why offering these types of employee energy benefits is a win-win. By helping employees reduce their impact on the earth, employee energy benefits are another tool organisations can use to help address climate change. Furthermore, employee energy benefits can help attract employees who are increasingly hoping to work for an organisation that is concerned about social issues.

In a survey of employees across various sectors in the United States for the 2017 research paper, we found that even after accounting for traditional offerings, such as healthcare and matched retirement savings, employees who were offered energy benefits tended to be more satisfied with their job. These same employees also self-reported that they were more likely to engage in sustainable actions.

There are many ways for employers to help address climate change. One promising strategy that requires more attention is how best to use employee energy benefits to empower employees to reduce their own climate impact.

Alexander Maki is a congressional science policy fellow with the American Psychological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science