December 9 2022

Free green employee benefits: How green are your perks?

Providing free green employee benefits could be a real game-changer for organisations.

71% of Millennial and Gen Z employees think their employer should address climate change, so offering green perks has pushed itself into recruitment strategies of late.

What are free green employee benefits?

Offering a benefits package that includes free green employee benefits can bring multiple benefits for organisations, besides the obvious cost aspect. With tightening budgets, more companies are searching for free employee benefits that have an ROI for the business.

Here are five free green employee benefits that are good for the environment and won’t cost your organisation a penny.

Free green employee benefit #1: Cycle to work scheme

The cycle to work scheme has to be the number one free green employee benefit.

This salary sacrifice scheme works by the employee hiring a bike and cycling equipment from their employer or a contracted company in return for a portion of their salary.

At the end of the scheme, an employee can either renew the agreement, buy the bike, or return it to their employer.

How much does the cycle to work scheme cost to employers?

Cycle to work schemes are free for employers to join, and there are also financial benefits.

A study by PJM Economics discovered that increasing employees’ physical activity raises productivity levels, potentially saving UK employers £6.6 billion a year.

Salary sacrifice schemes like cycle to work save both employers and employees money. That’s because the portion of an employee’s salary that’s sacrificed is not subject to tax and National Insurance.

Employees can make significant savings through the cycle to work scheme

Cycle to work schemes are one of the most popular (and free) green benefits for employees. About 180,000 people currently participate. 

Employees can save up to 40% on the cost of a new bike through tax and National Insurance savings. Saving money is particularly valuable right now given the cost-of-living crisis.

Plus, employees don’t have to worry about the rising cost of fuel, which can lead to financial stress.

What are the environmental benefits of the cycle to work scheme?

Cycling to work instead of driving reduces air and noise pollution. Research from Oxford University found that when people switch from driving to cycling for only one trip a day, their carbon footprint is reduced by 0.5 tonnes a year.

Lead researcher, Dr Christian Brand said:

If just 10% of the population were to change travel behaviour, the emissions savings would be around 4% of lifecycle CO2 emissions from all car travel.

Dr Christian Brand, Oxford University

Free green employee benefit #2: Remote working

The second most popular free green employee benefit has to be remote working.

During the pandemic, many employers had to adapt fast and roll-out remote working. Today, one in four businesses continue to offer remote working.

Employers can make substantial savings by offering remote working

Research from Global Workplace Analytics concluded that businesses save an average of £6,810 per year for each employee who works remotely for half of the week. 

Working from home can increase productivity because there are fewer distractions than in an office.

It can also improve employee retention and help to attract the best talent, which benefits a business’s bottom line.

Remote working gives employers the flexibility they crave at work

Working from home means people don’t waste time sitting in traffic and it gives them more flexibility and control over their lives. 

A survey carried out by RADA Business found that 61% of 16-24-year-olds want to work from home. 

Providing people with the option to work from home, for at least part of the week, widens the talent pool to those living further away.

This is especially true if your competitors don’t offer home working, so remote working is a great way to create a competitive edge. 

Remote working helps to reduce CO2 emissions

Researchers from the University of Exeter found that working from home saves an average of two tonnes of CO2 emissions per person, per year. 

The study analysed usual modes of transport and the average commuting distance. Researchers also compared domestic energy use to office energy usage, considering hot water, heating, lighting and more.

Free green employee benefit #3: Volunteering days

Volunteering or charity days have surged in popularity in the last few years. Employers give employees a specific number of days per year to participate in voluntary activities that benefit the local community.

Ideas include helping a wildlife charity for a day, volunteering to clean up beaches and parks, or planting trees. 

How much do volunteering days cost employers?

Offering environmental volunteering days doesn’t cost an employer anything in the traditional sense.

However, it does take employees away from their work for those days they’re absent, so there needs to be a return on investment in the environmental sense. 

For example, if an employee is planting trees, are they planting species that encourage biodiversity and reduce air pollution

In 2021, mental health issues cost UK employers £34.1 billion.

For this reason, employers are looking for ways to help employees manage stress levels, and spending time outdoors has been proven to help people feel more relaxed. 

Volunteering days boost can improve brand perception

Getting involved in the community and knowing they’re making a difference is beneficial to employees’ physical and mental health

Offering volunteering as part of your sustainable benefits for employees can help your business to attract talent.

A study carried out by Deloitte found that employee volunteering opportunities improve brand perception.

But be mindful of ‘green-washing’; when marketing or PR is used to give the impression that an organisation is more environmentally friendly than it really is. 

Carbon emissions could be cut by 12% by protecting our ecosystems

The environmental benefits of volunteering days have huge potential. The protection of woodlands, peat lands, and other ecosystems could reduce our current UK carbon emissions by 12% as part of rewilding efforts. 

Free green employee benefit #4: Employee-led workshops

The opportunity to learn environmental skills from peers is one of the best green perks an employer can offer.

Sustainability skills are in high demand today. More and more people want to reduce their waste and live more sustainably. 

Employees sharing their knowledge with others through face-to-face workshops or webinars is an untapped resource. 

Sharing knowledge on topics like growing and foraging for food, starting an allotment, harvesting rainwater, and composting is a great way to help others live more sustainably.  

Learning about sustainability is free

Learning environmental skills from peers doesn’t have to cost an employer anything. In fact, like other sustainable benefit ideas, it can reap financial rewards through increased productivity and staff retention.

Quench employees’ thirst for learning and development

61% of employees say they want to work for a company that offers learning and development opportunities. 

Now only do employees want it, but employers stand to gain a lot too, as the HR News article The Importance of Employee Learning and Development explains. 

Employees who are better trained are more productive, more motivated, have better relationships with team members, and are more likely to stay longer at the company. 

Offering learning and development opportunities is also a strategic move for making employees happy at work

Small steps generate huge gains over time

Equipping employees with the skills needed to make a positive impact on the environment in their home life is good news for the planet, and it costs the organisation nothing. 

If more people composted their food waste, for example, it would make a significant difference. A third of the world’s food is wasted and goes into landfill. Once in landfill, it produces methane which traps 25 times more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere than CO2

Free green employee benefit #5: Ethical pensions

You may be wondering what ethical pensions are. Well, you wouldn’t be alone. 

Ethical pension providers don’t invest people’s savings in carbon-intensive sectors. Instead, they invest in sectors that directly benefit the environment, such as renewable energy. 

This is another area where greenwashing is common. For that reason, it’s important to carry out due diligence on any pension provider before committing.  

Why are ethical pensions more expensive than traditional pension schemes?

On the basis that employees are liable for the fees associated with pension schemes, there’s no cost to employers. 

While it can be more expensive to roll out ethical pensions, the environmental aspect can make the additional investment worthwhile.  

Specifically, employees may pay a little more in fees for ethical pensions than other pension funds.

That’s because fund managers must actively identify companies that are genuinely ethical, which can involve extensive research.

Ethical choices can help attract talent and retain employees

The consumer magazine Which? discovered that 27% of their readers want their pension savings invested in ethical companies. This demand will probably increase as environmentally savvy Millennials and Gen Z become more interested in pension savings.

Choosing an ethical workplace pension scheme is one of the most valuable climate perks for employees. This can translate into feelings of goodwill towards their employer, and this positive perception can bring wider benefits. 

Why offer free green employee benefits?

Two-thirds of those in the Gen Z age range say they’re extremely anxious about climate change.

So if you’re considering how to attract talent with benefits, then offering free green employee benefits is becoming increasingly valuable.

That’s because candidates are more likely to choose to work for companies that align with their values and act on climate change. They’ll also be more loyal, engaged, productive and less likely to leave. 

Businesses can appeal to environmentally conscious employees by demonstrating their commitment to sustainability through the benefits they offer.

In turn, this can translate into a broad range of benefits that can help drive business profitability.