Employers under pressure to be environmentally friendly

Employers have come under increasing pressure to become more environmentally friendly, following a series of government reports.

The Stern review on the economics of climate change published in October, was followed by the Eddington transport study last month, which recommended a nationwide system of road pricing. In addition, a Climate Change Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech in November, plus measures in December’s pre-Budget report aimed to encourage drivers to choose more environmentally-friendly fuels.

The Eddington report suggested that congestion can be reduced if employers allow staff to work more flexibly so they can avoid travelling during peak hours. More employees working from home would not only reduce the pressure on the UK’s transport system, but also help the environment.

However, Chris Ridgewell, a director of Wise Work UK, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to encourage smarter working practices, said the environment is not yet a major consideration for those employers reviewing flexible working arrangements. “In the UK, the environment isn’t a driver, unlike in the US where they tax car parks, for example. We have never had that pressure here to make [flexible working] a business issue.”

He added that flexible working isn’t appropriate for all organisations because some need staff onsite during set hours in order to meet customers’ needs.

Tarun Patel, compensation and benefits director at MTV Networks Europe, doesn’t believe the Eddington report will have much influence on the company. “We are pretty flexible anyway around working [arrangements] for staff,” he said.

However, green issues are pushing their way up MTV’s agenda. Patel added that it is considering a programme where employees can make a donation to offset their carbon emissions. “It is not based purely on the [various] reports. It is us, as an organisation, trying to do what we can to help,” he said.

Company cars are another area where employers can begin to take steps towards helping the environment. December’s pre-Budget report included proposals to cut carbon emissions by extending incentives for green fuels. But many in the industry believe these don’t go far enough.

Julie Jenner, chairman of ACFO, said many fleet managers feel legislation is needed to convince finance directors to swap cars for more environmentally-friendly models. “Green initiatives will be high on the agenda in 2007. I’m sure there might have been some fleets where [the environment] would have been high on their agenda anyway, but The Stern review, and all of these climate reports that have come out, have brought it to the forefront of most fleet operators’ minds,” she added.