By Steve Moss, HR & Legal Director at vehicle leasing experts LeasePlan UK

Employers are the gatekeeper to a greener Britain. But are they doing enough to empower their employees to take action?

Most of us believe in the power of individual actions when it comes to fighting climate change. But for those of us who are time poor or lacking disposable income, it can sometimes feel like it’s difficult to make a difference.

Employers are well positioned to remove some of the obstacles preventing staff from making greater contributions towards the environment. They have access to a range of benefit and salary sacrifice schemes, which allow employees to make serious cost savings on the things that matter to them.

Demand is there and employers need to listen. In a recent survey of UK HR bosses and senior decision makers, 59% said there have been more requests or a rise in uptake for environmentally focused benefits. A further 56% said there has been additional pressure from employees wanting to know more about their organisation’s sustainability practices.

So, in the spirit of making a difference, what sort of environmentally focused benefits should employers be looking at?

Cleaner commute and travel options

By supporting your employees to make greener transport choices, you can make a real impact on the country’s pollution levels – something that will be well received by eco-conscious colleagues.

Cycle-to-work schemes are a great incentive to encourage employees to travel to and from work bike. However, not everyone can cycle to work, perhaps due to distance, health or the weather. What’s more, people might be racking up miles outside of their commute so the impact may be limited.

For this reason, where possible, employers should be encouraging their employees to go electric. Using an EV salary sacrifice scheme can help your employees to switch to more environmentally friendly vehicles by providing them with cash-saving incentives and a wide choice of vehicles. Not only are EVs cheaper to run, but they also reduce an employee’s carbon footprint and help improve urban air quality.

With more than half of employees (57%) showing an increased interest in EVs since March 2020, and 63% saying they would choose an EV as a company car if it was an option, it’s clear that the demand is already there. For those serious about making the switch, salary sacrifice schemes are the most cost-effective way to do it as they allow employees to pay for their car with their gross pay, resulting in lower tax payments. At the same time, employers can potentially take advantage of National Insurance savings, while having a great way to reward and motivate their workforce.

Payroll Giving schemes

Another salary sacrifice scheme that employees can benefit from is Payroll Giving. This provides them with a way of giving money to their chosen charity without paying tax on the donation. This means the charity gets a more generous donation, and it costs the employee less.

It’s a low cost, high impact way of supporting your colleagues to feel like they’re making a difference. Eco conscious employees are able to donate to green charities that they care about. It also means that charities don’t have to claim Gift Aid, so there’s less admin for them.

Payroll Giving schemes providing charities with a regular income, allowing them to plan and budget for the future.

Green pension funds

Green pension funds are another great way to allow employees to protect the planet and benefit financially at the same time. These funds earn interest for its savers through investment in environmentally positive, low-carbon companies.

By prioritising firms that make positive contributions to the world through one of the many green pension funds available, savers can reduce their carbon footprint while making ethical investments that align with their own values.

We’re at a crucial fork in the road

EV salary sacrifice schemes, Payroll Giving and green pension funds are just three ways that employers can make a difference through their employee benefit package and meet demand for eco-friendly perks.

With many companies reassessing their employee benefits packages, HR bosses now find themselves at a crucial fork in the road. Our survey found that over half (53%) say their company has ideas about how to tailor their employee benefits offering but is yet to implement them.

Before taking action, companies must listen carefully to their employees and offer perks that actually make a difference. The failure to do means going back to the way things were – and if we are to win the fight against climate change, this needs to be avoided at all costs.