Debbie Lovewell: Outside activities can be an all-round benefit

Using employee benefits to support wider business strategies, such as an environmental stance or corporate social responsibility, is nothing new.

But some leading organisations are now taking this a step further and using their benefits packages to encourage employees to adopt environmentally friendly behaviours in their lives away from the workplace.

While some might view this as a return to the paternalism of yesteryear, such initiatives have a number of advantages for both employer and employees.

Last month, for example, Center Parcs launched a pilot scheme incentivising its 6,000 staff to cut the amount of gas, water and electricity they use at home.

The leisure organisation will match any savings staff make in cash, and the worker who saves the most will receive £7,000 to spend on home improvements.

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Also last month, Nedbank Private Wealth gave all its staff pedometers to encourage them to reduce their carbon emissions by walking more. Over two months, employees could submit photographs of themselves walking, with prizes awarded for the best backdrops. The scheme was driven by the bank’s sustainability forum.

Some employers may question why they should get involved in influencing employees’ behaviour away from the workplace. But such initiatives can be a key tool in engaging staff with the organisation’s ethics and values. And anything that helps to save money in the current climate is likely to be looked on favourably, boosting staff loyalty.