Silver clouds line CO2 tale?

Carbon emission offsetting schemes are taking hold as organisations realise there’s respect from staff for environmentally-conscious employers, says Vicki Taylor.

If you read nothing else, read this …

Employers could come under pressure to incoporate carbon emission offsetting schemes within their corporate social responsibillity strategies.

Some organisations have seen success with schemes that are paid for by individuals, even though they are driving company cars.

Employees are likely to be proud to work for, and may even actively choose, environmentally-aware employers.

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Environmental awareness is at an all-time high, with more people beginning to think seriously about the waste they create and the CO2 footprint they leave during the course of their daily lives.

And with the launch of websites which allow car users in general to offset their CO2 emissions, such as BP’s Target Neutral site, employers could soon start to come under pressure from staff to make donations to such schemes on their employees’ behalf or to set up the facility for them to do so direct from their salary.

For many in the company car industry, the pressure on employers to offer such schemes is currently minimal, although not unheard of. However, with environmental concerns moving centre stage, more employees are expressing an interest in wanting to work for responsible employers which take steps to offset the carbon emissions that their fleet produces.

Don Potts, a corporate environmental adviser whose clients include Volvo, BSkyB and Virgin, estimates that between 10% and 12% of employees currently express concern about environmental issues. However, he adds that the situation will be different in the future for employers that don’t take the environment seriously. “Young people won’t join them [and] other businesses might not want to do business with them,” he predicts.

Younger employees, in particular, are attracted to environmentally-conscious employers. Sue Welland, founder of the Carbon Neutral Company, cites the example of a scheme run by an accountancy firm. “[Around] 24% of staff have signed up and the large proportion of that tends to be the new recruits. About 70% are [aged] under 35 years and are at graduate recruitment level. This is company mileage they are doing and they are paying [to offset their emissions] from their own pocket because they feel so committed to [the cause],” she explains.

She adds that employee requests have led to some clients introducing schemes which assess the level of environmental damage caused by an organisation and provide tips on how to minimise the impact of and offset carbon emissions. Welland adds that, in many cases, these requests are made by relatively junior employees.

However, Andrew Cope, chief executive at fleet management company Zenith, says he is not currently seeing much employee pressure to introduce such schemes. But he adds that more employers are starting to consider the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in relation to company cars and CO2 emissions.

This is borne out by the interest that is now being shown in the subject. When Cope tried to host a seminar on CSR and cars five years ago, for example, just one person signed up. The same seminar was recently a sell out. “We are at that point where a lot of people are wanting to do something but they are looking for a bit of a lead,” he explains.

So it seems employers are either taking note of staff who are conscious of the damage caused by company cars or are responding to investor and external pressures to demonstrate they are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions