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The pathway to a net zero future

Helen Rylands, director at Deloitte in the North of England, says the pathway to a net zero future will be defined by the actions of the many and not the few.  Businesses will need to make targeted interventions across their value chains and we as individuals, will need to make deliberate choices to play our part in decarbonisation.  

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Helen Rylands.jpg
Helen Rylands.jpg

As employers, we are witnessing growing engagement from our workforces around the carbon impact not only of our business activities, but also of our everyday lives. Some colleagues are expressing a desire to do more personally but feel excluded due to the cost, reliability of information or, accessibility of the solutions. Thus, an exciting opportunity is emerging in the space where the employer/employee relationship intersects most closely – employee reward – specifically, how green employee benefits can provide a win-win for both parties, whilst delivering positive impact on climate at the same time.

There are several key drivers of this very welcome development. Firstly, an increasing momentum to build back greener in a post-pandemic world and to embrace the pathway to Net Zero is driving businesses to reconsider all aspects of their ESG agendas. Secondly, the pandemic has created a global shift in working culture, including where and how people undertake their work. As a result, many employers are reassessing their working policies, including how they incentivise and reward their people. Finally, across many sectors where the competition for talent is fierce, there is a need for reward strategies to align with the priorities of the prospective talent pool, both as a recruitment and a retention tool. Climate is becoming more important to employees, and this needs to be taken seriously by employers.

The scope for businesses to use reward strategy to support their employees on their individual climate journeys should not be underestimated. By offering a range of green benefits, facilities, information and advice, businesses can use both their influence and their corporate buying power to drive change at a level and speed, which would otherwise take many more years to achieve individually. Businesses need their employees to be engaged around the delivery of their organisational ambitions on decarbonisation. By giving employees the tools to reduce their personal carbon footprint, business can help normalise climate action whilst at the same time, enjoy the benefits of greater employee engagement and loyalty.

Increasingly, we are asked what kind of opportunities are open to employers. The answer is wide- ranging and includes incentive pay that rewards employees for positive action, green enhancements to core employee reward such as pensions, through to information provision for busy employees unable to find time to research opportunities from scratch. There is also a trend toward providing increased employee choice in terms of their benefits package, including options such as:

  • Electric cars - an increasingly popular choice where employers can access government tax incentives, in order to provide vehicles to employees at an accessible cost that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive. Employee take-up can be significant when coupled with knowledge sharing on the practicality of electric cars and provision of charging facilities.
  • Provision of reliable information and discounted access to solutions that promote more sustainable homes, such as renewable energy tariffs, LED lightbulbs, home insulation and solar panels. These can mitigate the negative carbon impact of homeworking whilst also delivering cost savings for employees.
  • More established travel benefits, which make it easier for employees to make sustainable commuting choices. These can include discounted season ticket and loans, access to bikes at reduced cost and complementary facilities at work (e.g. showers and lockers). Opportunities such as these should not be overlooked and are being refreshed by many.

The key to the provision of green employee benefits, as with all actions on climate, is to start somewhere. This is an aspect of the climate journey over which business can have a very real and positive influence, realising tangible benefits in return.

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