Does a green benefits strategy motivate employees?

green benefits strategy
  • Green benefits can include bikes-for-work schemes, discounts on solar panels and rewards for using energy saving items.
  • Employers can create a green agenda to motivate employees to choose more sustainable consumer options.
  • Highlighting green benefits choices as part of an employee value proposition can increase attraction and retention.

Research by The Electric Car Scheme in February 2024 found that 48% of UK employees are more likely to feel motivated within an organisation that offers green benefits.

If employees appreciate benefits that support sustainability goals, how can employers incoporate green perks into a motivation strategy?

Green benefits strategies

Greener benefits can help employees to make more sustainable choices in their lives. Typical benefits included in a green strategy are corporate tree planting, volunteering schemes, and rewards and bonuses for using energy saving items or low carbon living.

Gethin Nadin, chief innovation officer at Benefex, says: “Electric vehicle schemes feature prominently on sustainable benefit strategies. However, benefits that allow employees to switch their utilities to renewable energy providers, discounts on solar panels and local food delivery boxes, are growing in popularity too.”

Other green benefits include bikes-for-work schemes, as well as hybrid working, for more sustainable commuting options. An emerging benefit is one that rewards slow travel, where employers provide extra annual leave at the start and end of employees’ holidays if they journey by rail instead of a plane, explains Sanjay Lobo, chief executive officer at OnHand.

“Additionally, it’s essential that HR and benefits teams ensure it’s easy for an employee to switch their pension investment choices to green and ethical investing,” he says. “Green options have outperformed most other pension returns in recent years.”

Fulfilling green agendas

As well as offering benefits specifically aimed at changing employee behaviours, employers can also use a green agenda to incentivise employees. For example, they can offer reloadable cards that are restricted to green options or promote discounts on more sustainable consumer choices. Another way for employers to include metrics for their green agendas is by tracking the carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions made by employees through specialist platforms.

“Using these to boost a green agenda not only encourages employees to change their habits for the benefit of the world, but they also showcase the role benefit schemes can play in wider organisational agendas,” explains Nadin. “One example of this is using the CO2 emissions saved by moving employees to electric vehicles and adding those to the emissions saved by the organisation as a whole.”

Employers are also planting trees for new employees as recognition awards or in relation to an event where there will be a carbon impact, says Lobo. “Employees want to do good and will change behaviours if there’s a sustainability impact,” he adds.

Organisations can help employees make climate-friendly changes in their everyday lives through education programmes and workshops about the carbon savings they can make.

Sarah Howden, campaign manager at Climate Perk, says: “This includes offering extra paid leave for low-carbon holidays, running Veganuary challenges, and time off to volunteer or do pro-bono work for environmental charities.”

By using data and insights to track the most sought-after and used benefits, employers can work to make those benefits as sustainable as possible, while taking an integrated approach to ensure green incentives complement their wider benefits strategy.

Instead of trying to offset company car schemes with a green benefit, organisations should ensure that they offer electric and hybrid cars to employees, rather than less sustainable options, says Riaan van Wyk, senior wellbeing data consultant at Barnett Waddingham.

“For employees, this is a benefit that meets their needs, and for employers, it allows them to continue to work towards their sustainable targets,” he says.

Motivating and attracting employees

Showcasing green benefits choices as part of an employee value proposition can boost attraction and retention, enabling potential and current employees to understand an organisation’s ethics.

“More employees want to work for an organisation that prioritises environmental, social and governance issues,” says Nadin. “When an employer makes it easier for staff to modify their behaviour and make more environmentally conscious choices, this boosts engagement and belonging in the workplace. Organisations that have more sustainable practices also tend to have more progressive employee experiences.”

Some employees look to organisations to reflect their own values. Employers that do this through a green benefits strategy can, therefore, use this to help attract, motivate and retain staff.

Employee demand for green initiatives, combined with a regulatory push towards the UK’s net-zero targets, put the topic firmly on the corporate agenda over the last decade, however, this has fallen down the priority list for employees today, says Van Wyk.

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“This shift in interest is not necessarily due to lack of demand, but a change in circumstances that has required people to re-prioritise,” he explains. “Employers should not see a lack of engagement with green benefits as a reason to scale back, but instead should do a full review of their benefits strategy, using data to generate insight into employee needs and wants. Within that, employers must consider how their wider green corporate strategy can align with their benefits strategy.

If provided with a range of choices that highlight the impact on themselves and the environment, a green benefits strategy can motivate employees and increase attraction and retention levels.