Emma Kemp: Employers can empower their staff to take climate change action

In the last few years, climate change has taken centre stage. Public concerns about the climate have reached an all-time high: United Nations (UN) research published in January 2021 shows 81% of Brits recognise that there is a climate emergency. Even during the Coronavirus pandemic, concern about climate change hasn’t wavered. It’s clear people want action, and unsurprisingly this comes into the workplace with 86% of Millennials and Gen Z employees preferring employers that report lowering environmental impact, according to research from Brita UK in April 2019.

Employers have a huge opportunity to multiply their impact on climate change by empowering their staff to take action. Employee rewards and benefits play a vital role in this. Once centred around the idea of local gym discounts and free fruit on Fridays, employee benefits are now reflecting the commitment employers have to tackling climate breakdown.

So where should employers start? The climate crisis has advanced and so must we. It’s important to offer staff benefits that have a genuine impact.

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Flying is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions; employers looking to encourage and reward staff who choose to swap planes for low carbon transport such as trains can join the Climate Perks scheme, which enables employers to offer their staff ‘sustainable travel days’ to their holiday destinations.

Bikes-for-work schemes are another brilliant addition to any employee benefits package aiming to take on transport emissions. They’re essentially a tax-break for choosing to invest in a bike. 

Offering staff time off to volunteer for organisations tackling the climate crisis is another way employers can show their commitment to climate action. During the 2019 Global Climate Strike, a series of employers including Patagonia, Lush, Burton and Sodastream shut up shop and gave their staff the opportunity to join the strike. 

Employers can also put their money where their mouth is with pension funds, traditionally loaded with investments, such as fossil fuels, that don’t typically align with people’s morals.

As we approach the UN climate talks later this year, there will be a spotlight on what UK businesses are doing to tackle rapidly rising temperatures. And with many of us suffering the mental health effects from multiple lockdowns, there’s never been a better time to offer staff rewards and benefits that are great for the planet as well as people.

Emma Kemp is campaigns manager at climate charity Possible