The collective power of the UK’s employees is hugely underrated. Ignoring a few lies told in the House of Commons recently, payrolled employees total around 29.6 million. Imagine the amount of positive (or reduced negative) impact we could all have on the planet with the help of good employee incentives.
The broad sector that the majority of BIMA members are in (Information and Communications), accounts for 7% of those 29.6 million employees, which is just over 2 million people. Our sector pay is over 60% more than the UK average. It’s clear there is significant potential. So, how is that potential unlocked?
There is no magical solution when it comes to the climate and ecological emergencies. There is no one, singular thing people can just do and feel content. And employers should never expect employees to carry the burden of solving the climate and ecological emergencies on their own. However, there are approaches that will have a significant impact initially and then continue to amplify as they raise awareness and create talking points. For me, employee incentive/benefit schemes is one of those approaches.
And to cover the “what’s in it for the employer?” question, there are three answers:
- Firstly, some of these schemes will help reduce the carbon footprint of the employer; great for your net zero pledge.
- Secondly, trust in businesses has now surpassed that of governments (which probably says more about the state of our world leaders than it does about the trustworthiness of businesses), so being able to prove to stakeholders you’re investing in your employees and the planet is vital to continue to build that trust.
- Thirdly, in an extremely competitive hiring environment where employees are increasingly looking for their employers to show leadership on impact related issues, these benefits and incentives will help employers build loyalty and stand out to potential new hires.
Given the above, we as the BIMA Sustainability Council, believe it would be hugely beneficial for the Government’s net zero commitments for them to further incentivise employers to offer more planet related employee benefits.
Through a series of workshops that we carried out with business leaders and sustainability experts, we have written an open letter to the government that outlines a number of additional supporting measures that they could put in place. It’s built around the idea of green tax breaks, similar to R&D tax breaks. So before you read the list of things you can implement right now, please read our letter and co-sign it. The more signatures we can get, the more seriously this will be taken.
So here’s our list of things employers can do right now to help their employees to help the planet:
- Move your pension scheme to a provider that cares more about the planet – Cushon and Pension Bee are the best ones we’ve seen. Slightly different offers but both recognise the fact that stopping funding stuff that is bad for the planet is a great way to help the planet. The MakeMyMoneyMatter campaign has all the information you need.
- Sign up to the OctopusEV leasing scheme – this makes the most of the salary sacrifice and benefit in kind tax breaks so is the most economic and hassle free way to get an EV. With the added bonus of a free charger and some cheap electricity from Octopus Energy. And employees don’t have to use it for work purposes! But if they do, that’ll help reduce the employer’s Scope 3 emissions.
- Get EV chargers installed at your office – there are decent subsidies still available from the government for EV chargers at workplaces.
- Sign up to the Cycle Scheme – Another great salary sacrifice scheme; employees buy bikes and cycling equipment, their employer pays for it and then the employee pays back out of their pre-tax pay.
- Help your employees invest in wind farms – Ripple Energy has an amazing business model of co-op ownership for wind farms. Given that employees are spending more money on home energy now they’re working from home more often, an employer could easily give people a small (or large!) contribution towards the cost of signing up. Given that working from home contributes to an employer’s Scope 3 emissions, this will also help (albeit minimally) reduce Scope 3 emissions.
- Give your employees a personalised carbon reduction plan for their commute – MobilityWays will map every employee’s commute, giving each a plan for how to reduce its carbon footprint. Don’t worry, it goes way beyond “get the bus instead of drive”. Also, RouteZero is a start up in the same area; they’re doing great things and have just announced their enterprise offer. As we all start to return to the office and client’s offices, this is another way for an employer to reduce Scope 3 emissions.
- Help your employees choose low carbon over low cost travel when they go on holiday – ClimatePerks is a commitment from employers to give extra holiday to allow employees to travel by train instead of flying.
Help employees move to a renewable energy tariff – Not all renewable energy tariffs are equal. Only three companies contribute to increasing the amount of renewable energy in the UK grid; Ecotricity, Good Energy and Green Energy UK. To help increase the number of employees choosing tariffs from those companies, employers could offer a yearly cash incentive to anyone who is with them.
- Give employees access to a carbon counting/reduction app – Apps such as Giki Zero, Deedster and Capture.club give employees advice and challenges to help them reduce their personal carbon footprint. Giki Zero also offers great lunch and learns about all things sustainability, further helping to educate people and create long term change.Count Us In is also a great way to inspire climate action from your employees.
- Help reduce the impact of electronic devices – This one might not be a benefit in the same way as the others, but using your office as a place where employees can go to Restart Parties (where they are taught how to repair electronic devices) or drop off electronic devices to be sent to organisations that reuse or recycle them, is a genuinely helpful.
- Properly support green groups – Again, not such an obvious employee benefit, but definitely worth a mention here; encouraging and supporting your employees to set up green groups/communities of practice. If these groups are given the time and budget they will be a huge force for good; finding other incentives employers can implement, pointing out processes that can be changed for the better of the planet and communicating in an authentic way to get more people on board.
- Support the setting up of reuse and sharing communities – Similarly to the above, enabling employees to sell and swap things amongst themselves is a great way to help with reducing things going to landfill.
- Roll out Ecosia as your default search engine – The search engine Ecosia, uses its profits to plant trees. The more people that use it, the more money it makes, the trees it plants. It’s also a B Corp and doesn’t track people or sell data. It might not be as powerful as Google when it comes to unearthing the root cause of a development issue that is blocking your client’s website going live but for the vast, vast majority of searches it works perfectly. Rolled as a default search engine across an organisation, it is a great way to raise awareness of the impact on the planet that the digital industry has; about 4% of global emissions at the last count which is more than the aviation industry.
Neil Clark is the Service Design Lead and Planet Officer at TPX Impact. He is also the Co-chair of the BIMA Sustainability Council.