Integrating Environmental Efforts Into Your Employee Benefits

Integrating Environmental Efforts Into Your Employee Benefits

August 02, 2023

Going green has become a business imperative as employees increasingly want to work for employers that prioritize the environment.

Fast Company reports nearly 75% of millennials would accept less pay to work for an organization with strong environmental practices. A Deloitte survey reveals similar sentiments among Generation Z employees, who view environmental protection as part of their mission to improve society through their work.

In addition to the environment, your employees place great value on their employee benefits. So why not combine the two elements?

Integrating green efforts into your benefit offerings can happen in many ways, including through:

  • Digital resources
  • Commuter benefits
  • Volunteer efforts
  • Employee discounts
  • Food options
  • Third-party accountability
  • Environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds

Digital resources

Taking advantage of digital technology can help your organization and your employees reduce carbon emissions. Examples include:

  • Telehealth benefits — By accessing virtual care through a digital device, your employees don’t have to drive to every medical appointment. This can reduce long car rides in rural areas and ease congestion in cities.
  • Online education — Allowing employees to pursue some of their professional development needs through webcasts, online courses and virtual conferences is a way to cut back on carbon-intensive air travel.
  • Remote or hybrid schedules — It’s not uncommon for employees to drive an hour or two to work. Avoiding that commute even one day a week can make a big difference in vehicle emissions.

Commuter benefits

If your business requires employees to be on-site, you can still promote green efforts through commuter benefits and perks.

  • In 2023, the IRS allows you to provide up to $300 a month in tax-free commuter benefits to each employee. Qualified benefits include transit passes (for public or private buses, trains, subways or ferries) and carpool vehicles that seat at least six adults and are primarily used to transport employees between home and work.
  • You can also provide on-site amenities to reward green choices. Examples include charging stations for electric vehicles, bicycle pumps and repair kits, bicycle and scooter storage areas, and a walking path at work.
  • Providing information on green options makes it easier for employees to participate. Consider offering a vetted list of public transit options and bike shops, visual graphics with expected savings from not using a car, and employee sign-up sheets for carpools, group bike rides or group walks.

Volunteer efforts

Allowing employees to volunteer for environmental causes during the workday is a perfect marriage of green benefits. Opportunities include:

  • River cleanup
  • Work site or rooftop gardening
  • Community park beautification
  • Invasive plant removal
  • Local co-op, nature center or wildlife service program

Employee discounts

Employee discounts let you demonstrate your values and help employees save money. To secure discounts for your employees, you can work directly with individual organizations or use an online employee discount platform. Employee discounts that help promote a greener way of life could include:

  • Bicycles and bike repairs
  • Walking shoes
  • Energy-efficient home appliances
  • Smart thermostats
  • Solar panels

Other cost-saving ideas include covering the entry fee for a charity 5K or setting up a group cycling class. These options can be part of a promotional campaign encouraging employees to walk or bike to work.

Food options

Everybody loves free food. You can combine that love with environmental causes by providing on-site meal or snack options from:

  • Farmers’ markets and community farms
  • Locally sourced restaurant and catering services
  • Zero-waste meal kits

In addition, you can hold friendly competitions related to workplace recycling or bringing meals from home instead of driving for lunch. Winners could receive gift baskets with locally grown produce.

Third-party accountability

When assessing employee benefits vendors (or any of your organization’s service providers), ask them to provide metrics on their environmental business practices. Selecting third parties in part on their sustainability efforts will expand the environmental impact beyond your doors and into the wider community.

Share environmental data from vendors with your employees so they can see your commitment to the cause.

ESG funds

Including ESG funds as an investment option in your employees’ retirement plan is another way to demonstrate a culture of environmental responsibility. It also allows employees to choose investments that align with their values.

As with all investment options, ESG funds must adhere to your Employee Retirement Income Security Act fiduciary duties of governance and monitoring. Work with your investment team and counsel to find funds that make sense for your investment policies and plans.

Going green with your benefits

Ready to go green? Talk with your insurance broker or benefits adviser about opportunities to incorporate environmental sustainability and responsibility into your benefit offerings.