The Loop

Environmental and Sustainability Benefits For Workers

Filed under: Benefits

More than eight out of ten Millennials and Generation Z workers believe that businesses should take responsibility for improving environmental and social issues. While many companies have developed green business practices, it is important to demonstrate this commitment through worker benefits as well.

After all, younger generations are trying to steer their careers toward socially conscious employers. Aligning their professional life with an employer that reflects their personal values gives them a sense of pride and purpose. Therefore, offering environmental and sustainable benefits presents an all-new and viable avenue for employers to attract and retain a dedicated and productive workforce.


Every day, millions of Americans commute to work by personal vehicles or public transportation. As a result, transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Employers that offer remote and hybrid work options can substantially reduce these emissions.

The following are environmental and sustainable benefits related to transportation:

• Limit business air travel to only what is necessary
• Offer working from home or a hybrid home/office work schedule
• Offer subsidies to relocate workers closer to the worksite
• Offer subsidies for using public transportation or biking to work
• Offer incentives to organize or encourage carpooling
• Offer subsidies or discounts to rent or buy bikes and accessories; consider deducting payments on a tax-advantaged basis from paychecks
• Provide worksite charging stations for electric cars and e-bikes
• Offer subsidies, rebates or discount programs for buying or leasing electric or hybrid vehicles
• Offer subsidies, rebates or discount programs for the cost and installation of a home charging station for electric cars and/or e-bikes

Bonus Vacation Time

Business air travel is not the only contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – vacation travel is also a major factor. While many people may be willing to utilize other modes of transportation, they are typically limited to air travel due to time constraints. One way that employers can incentivize lower-carbon alternatives is to offer paid “travel days” in addition to vacation PTO. In other words, when a worker submits vacation plans that feature train travel in lieu of air travel, they may be granted extra PTO to compensate for the slower, but more environmentally conscious alternative.

Purchase Programs

Employers have the advantage of being able to negotiate prices at volume rates and then pass on those savings to their workers. Consider using this tactic for sustainable products and services that workers can integrate into their homes and lifestyles. For example:

• Offer subsidies, rebates, or discount programs on appliance and home systems for efficient lighting, heating, and cooling – which also may qualify for tax credits and incentives
• Offer subsidies, rebates, or discount programs on home energy assessments and installations of energy efficiencies like insulation, solar panels, and battery storage
• Subscriptions to local organic farms and markets
• Offer Permaculture, Grow Your Own, and DIY workshops
• Offer subsidies, rebates, or discount programs for sustainable and ethical smartphones and eco-friendly laptops
• Offer subsidies, rebates, or discount programs for sportswear and other ethical clothing brands

Worker Investment Options

Give workers the opportunity to align their investments with their priorities and passions. Offer environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment options in employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) plans.

Sustain By Example

Working for an environmentally conscious company is a source of pride for many workers. They talk about policies and practices their employers implement to create a more sustainable, energy-efficient environment. The following are some of the best practices that many workers perceive as benefits:

• Paperless office – encourage workers to print only when necessary
• Use deforestation-free printer paper
• Offer canned drinks instead of plastic bottles in vending machines
• Provide biodegradable alternatives to plastic straws and cutlery
• Use recyclable coffee pods or reusable drip filters in coffee makers
• Provide ample recycle bins in strategic locations
• Place indoor plants throughout the office, which can boost oxygen levels and remove harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide and formaldehyde
• Offer green dry-cleaning services with an onsite drop-off/pick-up point
• Offer farm-share market days at the workplace featuring discounted locally grown produce
• Limit lighting in environments where workers use screens for the majority of their work; eliminate widespread ceiling lighting and make small task lighting lamps available for cubicles and desktops for on-demand use
• Use motion-activated light switches in restrooms, dimly lit corridors, and stairwells
• Install energy-efficient ceiling fans to help circulate air and regulate temperature
• Provide compost bins and allow workers who would like to use it for their own gardening purposes to take waste home
• Organize environmental worker/family activities, such as a local park clean-up day during National Park Week
• Install solar panels on office buildings
• Turn empty offices or a conference room into swap meets – where workers can drop off lightly used household goods, books, toys, etc. for others to take as needed
• Partner with local organizations to provide opportunities for workers to bring their electronic waste (e.g., cell phones, tablets, laptops, batteries) to the workplace for recycling and papers for shredding
• Offer lunch-and-learn sessions on sustainable topics, such as reducing your carbon footprint or how to protect natural resources
• Offer paid volunteer time for local ESG-related initiatives

Enhance Your Brand Reputation

The nice thing about environmental sustainability is that you can generate quantifiable results, such as energy reduction, commute miles eliminated, and pounds of trash versus recycled materials. There are even environmental management systems that can help you track your progress.

Don’t be shy about touting your ESG achievements. Set measurable goals, track, and report on them to your workforce, shareholders, clients/customers, local and national media, as appropriate. Studies show that employers with eco-friendly policies have more productive workers, so give them the data that demonstrates your organization’s success and they will share it with others. Research also has shown that workplace sustainability practices yield fewer sick days, less employee burnout, and higher job performance.

Gone are the days when people who recycled were denigrated and labeled “tree huggers.” Today, reducing, reusing, repurposing, and recycling are the norm. Workers and consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever, and companies that “go green” both align with the prevailing public sentiment and boost their own brand reputation.

When giving workers the option to take advantage of environmental and sustainable benefits, employers are perceived as responsible, ethical, and caring. There’s not a broad downside to this initiative, and it will only grow stronger in the future.

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