Anila Babla of Loco2 brings you eight top tips for encouraging your employees to travel sustainably.
They say that old habits die hard and nothing could be more true when it comes to how we travel. With transport an ever-growing source of carbon emissions, projected to rise every year throughout Europe, travelling less and changing the ways we travel will be an important part of a lower carbon future. For any business serious about creating a culture of responsibility and sustainability, changing attitudes to travel - be that for the daily commute or overseas trips - will be an important part of their efforts.
Providing employees with the knowledge and resources to make informed travel choices will benefit everyone and some simple incentives can be transformative. Even small companies can set a bold example by cutting carbon as you grow your business. As with any good habit, it's easier to incorporate sustainable travel practices from day one than retrofit later.
With that in mind, here are some simple ways you can help encourage sustainable travel practice in the workplace, with a focus on small business:
1. Provide access to public transport
It's not uncommon for employers to provide interest free loans to pay for season tickets on public transport. And with rail fares growing at an alarming rate, this type of initiative may soon become a standard feature of attractive salary packages. If the loan is less than £5,000 there is no tax or national insurance to pay, and the sum is repaid, usually in monthly installments, from the employee's wage.
If your business involves local travel, it makes good business sense to provide finance options to your staff for public transport. Read this HMRC fact sheet on Green Travel Plans for more information: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/green-transport/travel-plans.htm
2. Sign up to the Cycle to Work scheme
Offer employees the chance to buy a bike in monthly installments from their salary. They'll benefit from a tax-free bike (the deduction is made before tax is calculated), saving up to 40% on the retail price. And you'll have a fitter, healthier employee at no cost to you. It's free, over 2,000 stores are signed up and it's simple to administer online.
The Government's Cycle Scheme website (part of their Green Transport Initiative) is a good place to start, In addition, in many major cities worldwide there are cycle rental schemes (like London's Barclays Bike scheme), which are a cost-effective way of getting to work. Both of these are great ways to encourage employees to cycle to work (and keep fit!).
3. Provide cycle resources and hold cycling related events
If the Cycle to Work scheme is already in place in your workplace, go further by providing access to cycle proficiency training and bike travel resources. This can be as simple as providing cycle routes, either as hard copies of maps, or pointers toward online websites or cycle apps for mobile phones.
Cyclestreets is a great place to start. Host a cycle to work day, with free breakfast for those who take up the challenge. And, if possible, provide shower and changing facilities for those brave enough to embrace Lycra. Finally why not hold a mini cycling event - the London Cycling Campaign lets you book a 'Dr Bike' session where employees can come and get their bikes serviced for free.
4. Consider car/bike pooling
Give staff access to shared vehicles/bikes to travel to meetings. Use electric car leasing companies such as Next Green Car to provide an alternative to the personal company car. Next Green Car leases electric, hybrid and other low emission cars. Introduce a lift-sharing scheme for employees who drive to work, and let them know about useful lift-sharing resources like Bla Bla Car for longer distances.
5. Incentivise sustainable travel with a green scale
Time was when the number of air/car miles racked up was an indication of the most dedicated worker. Now we need to encourage the opposite. Incentivise sustainable travel by giving staff green credits when they travel sustainably. Make green travel the new badge of honour and engage employees by providing carbon comparisons for travel options.
Award credits to earn flexitime, lunch or other vouchers every time they make low carbon travel choices. You can even incorporate green travel into your company manifesto by offering an extra day of leave to employees who make a sustainable travel choice for their holiday.
6. Choose sustainable travel options for other areas of your business
Show how sustainable transport is already being implemented in other areas of the business, and lead by example. If you're in senior management champion the sustainable travel cause, walking the walk, not simply talking the talk. If your organisation's product is physical consider delivery to your customer by freight/cargo bike, which has a much lower carbon footprint than other methods of dispatch.
London based Creative Couriers were the first to offer a local courier service by cargo bicycle. It's a more cost-effective mode of transport for larger parcels, and in congested areas, a cycle courier is faster than a man in a van!
7. Choose the train for short-haul continental business travel
If your business travels to the Continent, switch to using the train for European business trips. Trains are great for city-to-city journeys taking you to the heart of the capital, not a lonely airstrip on the fringes, and rail journeys can be wonderfully productive. Loco2 (forgive a little shameless self promotion here!) is a startup making cross continental rail journeys easier to book. And if you opt for high-speed trains you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in an office on wheels with excellent access to spacious table seats, Wi-Fi and power sockets.
8. Where possible, eliminate travel to work altogether
Offer your employees more flexible ways of working, and you can reduce company travel while keeping your staff happy. With the average commute clocking in at around 82mins (Department for Transport: National Travel Survey: Personal Travel Factsheet Commuting and Business travel) who doesn't relish skipping the commute every once in a while?
Look at innovative ways to work flexibly, such as videoconferencing (Skype made this possible for the masses) and collaborative online working (for example Google Docs ) that allow employees to work from home (or anywhere!) in their virtual office. Experiment with what works for your business and you may discover new ways of working that benefit you and your employees as well as achieving your sustainable travel agenda.
The key to all of the above is to showcase the benefits of sustainable travel to the individual and commit to it for the long-haul. There are no overnight solutions but with determination, patience and creativity, travel routines can be changed for the better. Some of these ideas will demand a logistical rethink, but an improved travel culture will equate to better employee satisfaction in the long-term. If you're a business just starting out, there's no better time to start, since rethinking business travel is a vital stone in the path to a low carbon economy.
For further inspiration, listen to our webinar recording "How to develop a green travel plan and bring your employees with you" [Business level members only]