Need to know:
- There are numerous options for employers looking to promote green travel, some of which may already be in place, such as cycle-to-work schemes.
- Organisations should use data to gauge the extent of the issue, as well as map and measure success.
- Gamification, competition, and effective communications can all ensure employees engage with efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of their commute.
This year has seen the climate change issue rise to even greater prominence than before, both on the global stage and in employees’ everyday lives.
Organisations are now constantly being urged to address their carbon footprints, by government bodies, the court of public opinion and, increasingly, incoming employees themselves.
Graham Simmonds, chief executive at Jump, says: “With everything happening at a macro level around climate change and climate emergencies being declared, employers are very aware they need to encourage their people to travel as sustainably as possible. It’s been a trend for some time but it’s picking up now. There’s pressure coming up from within organisations. [Employees] are recognising that it’s important to do the right thing.”
So, how can employers take the staff commute and turn it into a force for environmental good?
Types of scheme
First, employers should be aware that there are numerous options when it comes to greener travel, some of which might already be in place. Options such as season ticket loans and cycle-to-work schemes, for example, already incentivise staff to get out of their cars if positioned properly.
In addition, organisations can go green with company car benefits, introducing electric and hybrid vehicles, or promoting car sharing by offering an enhanced mileage allowance per additional passenger.
“Some schemes might sound a bit daunting, but it’s just about nudging people into the right behaviours,” explains Simmonds. “[Finding] something accessible for the employee and employer is important.”
A green travel initiative might, for example, start with something as simple as making a staff car park only available to those using car shares, encouraging employees to consider how they make their journeys, says Matt Dale, head of consultancy at ALD Automotive.
Most importantly, employers should trial any new initiative to ensure it is the right option for their workforce, Dale suggests: “Get 10 or 20 volunteers to run electrical vehicles for six months and see how they work for your business.”
Measure and quantify
Before introducing a scheme, organisations should measure their existing position, for example how many employees commute by car, and how many of these are in non-environmentally friendly vehicles.
This information can be used not only to decide what scheme would fit the workforce best, but also to map success.
Ewan McClymont, business development director at accountancy firm Bishop Fleming, says that his organisation’s green travel strategy was couched in statistics from the beginning: “We started measuring some key metrics that we could control. The three metrics we measure every month are electricity and gas, paper utilisation, and business mileage.
“It’s business mileage that’s the hardest one, because we’re a growing company, taking on more people, expanding to more offices, which gives us a bigger footprint. For us, it’s our biggest challenge and the one we’re now increasingly focusing on.”
Bishop Fleming now tracks how many employees commute without using a car, and how many car-users drive with additional passengers.
Make it motivating
The tax and fuel savings available through electric vehicles, and the health and financial benefits of moving away from cars altogether, should in theory be plenty of motivation, on top of the urge to be more environmentally friendly.
Nevertheless, employers should not bank on this, and should instead consider what motivators to put in place to ensure a green travel scheme is effective. Introducing gamification around, for example, how many employees cycle or get public transport to work, can tap into natural motivation.
Simmonds says: “People respond very well to competition, and acknowledgement is very important, both the individual competitive spirit and team competitive spirit. Prizes themselves [do not have to have] huge value, but [they are] a bit of an incentive, and that does make a difference.”
Dale adds that this can also help embed a new car scheme: “Bring in gamification: see who can get the best range out of a battery, who can achieve the best fuel economy with a hybrid, who can find the best route to the office. Get people competing to see how little fuel they can use in their everyday life.”
It is also important to make sustainable behaviour the path of least resistance. This might mean reducing the availability of car parking spaces, ensuring showers are available to staff who cycle to work, or offering subsidies that make green travel the most sensible option financially.
Consider additional needs
Giving employees ready access to electric vehicle chargers is not as simple as installing them outside their homes. At the moment, the UK does not have open roaming on chargers, so employers may need to take up more than one app, some of which are paid, until this becomes more accessible.
In addition, although government grants can make installing chargers on private residences easier, without a drive this might not be feasible, and therefore may not be an option for all staff.
Create effective communications
Organisations should use internal communications to promote the green benefits of programmes, such as cycle-to-work schemes, which might not have previously been seen in this light. On the other hand, outlining how green travel initiatives can benefit the individual, either financially or in terms of health and wellbeing, can be a significant draw.
“Communication is vital, whatever an employer is doing around sustainability, that’s something else where we’re seeing an uptick in focus,” says Simmonds. “Make the communications simple, not too wordy, and put forward simply what people are being encouraged to do and how they can benefit from it.”
Dale adds that there might be some surprising angles to take when it comes to showcasing the benefits of green company car schemes: “There is a school of thought that people in electric cars are more relaxed, because [there is] no noise, no clutch, no revving. It’s silent, so it makes it a nicer driving experience. You could almost see these as health benefits.”
Connect to culture
To make sure that a green travel scheme is systemic and ingrained, and has the best effect when it comes to reputation, employers should ensure it is linked to clear organisational values.
This was a core consideration for Bishop Fleming, says McClymont: “One of our core values is doing the right thing, it’s as simple as that; increasingly so with the world we live in now, [green travel] is the right thing to do. My advice would be, look at what your values are as an organisation, what’s near to your heart?”