It's time to seize the moment

Few aspects of life on earth have been left untouched by the seismic shock that coronavirus has delivered to societies and economies. This ‘black swan event' - a surprise occurrence that has a major lasting impact - is making people reconsider their priorities.

Indeed, research shows that two-thirds of Britons now believe climate change is as serious as coronavirus and the majority want sustainability prioritised in economic recovery.

We now find ourselves at a pivotal moment. In the midst of the ‘Great Resignation’ many need to feel that they are working with an employer that takes sustainability seriously. With as much as a quarter of a company’s value being attributed to its reputation, it’s important for businesses to act.

So, what exactly is sustainability?

In truth, sustainability means different things to different people. What is clear is that it is not just about ensuring that as individuals and businesses we don’t use up or destroy natural resources, it is much wider than that.

"Don’t just think of green initiatives, think of improving wellbeing, reducing inequalities and building strong communities"

For me sustainability is best defined by the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals, which have been adopted by all UN members, provide the first global common ground from which to address social and environmental challenges. These goals define a much, much wider measure of sustainability including equality, wellbeing and community alongside protecting our planet.

So, when aligning your benefits and wellbeing strategy to your corporate sustainability goals, don’t just think of green initiatives, think of improving wellbeing, reducing inequalities and building strong communities.

Sustainable benefits

The good news is that you’ve probably already got some sustainable benefits but may not have realised. Most employers have a Cycle to Work scheme and some wellbeing initiatives. However, there is so much more that you can do. I’d urge all employers to take a fresh look.

We’ve worked with a range of providers to bring many sustainable benefit options to our clients. Here’s just a few of our favourites:

  • Charity recognition – instead of giving your employees a small monetary reward as recognition for a job well done, how about giving them a charity pot to allocate to one of hundreds of vetted projects from around the world? Instead of a £50 reward funding a family take-away, it could fund a girl through school in India for a whole year!
  • Electric cars – offering electric or low emission car leasing via a salary sacrifice scheme can help reduce the carbon footprint of your workforce. Importantly, it can also deliver notable employer NI savings!
  • Easy volunteering – while many employers do offer time off to volunteer, it’s estimated that around 9m volunteering days are wasted every year. Our volunteering module can help you link employees to online and in-person volunteering opportunities to suit them, wherever they live. 
  • Carbon offsetting – you can make it easy for your employees to offset their carbon footprint through monthly payroll deductions. This could include prize draw incentives, sustainable challenges, and engaging app based tracking.

Don’t just bolt on some sustainable benefits!

As my team will tell you that I’m a massive advocate of the power of the aggregation of marginal gains; making small improvements in different areas that over time aggregate into making a real difference. We are not going to change the world overnight by simply bolting on a few sustainable benefits. Sustainability is about making a difference wherever we can, it’s about changing small things which aggregate to make an impactful difference.

This is beautifully summarised by my daughter who once told me off for buying a coffee in a non-recyclable cup when I left my bamboo one at home. I argued that it was a one off. My daughter quickly retorted “it’s only one cup… said seven billion people!” We can learn great things from our children! 

Holding benefit providers to account

As well as adding new sustainable benefits, we need to challenge existing benefit providers to be more sustainable. Auditing the environmental credentials of suppliers is an essential step for any businesses hoping to be more sustainable. At Barnett Waddingham we do just that by integrating sustainability into our provider review process.

We’ve updated our Research Lab provider due diligence to include a dozen multi-layered questions on sustainability; all built in conjunction with our own in-house experts who advise organisations on sustainability. Our robust provider sustainability scoring will help you understand the credentials of every provider. 

The clever bit - sustainable incentives

I will reluctantly admit that this important development all started with me buying a pair of slippers online. In return for making a purchase the retailer committed to planting a couple of trees on my behalf. I was given access to a dashboard to track the progress of my trees and was provided with regular updates. I was particularly impressed and felt this could have powerful application in benefits. Oh, for the record, the slippers were made of recycled materials.

"It is about involving your people in your own sustainability journey with everyone doing their bit and the impacts aggregating together to making a real difference"

I’m pleased to announce that, after lots of hard work, we can now bring the same experience to our clients all beautifully integrated into our 4me online user journey. Employees can be rewarded with sustainable incentives including tree planting, coral reef planting and ocean plastic recovery. Select a bike through cycle to work and get 50 trees planted on your behalf; choose to offset your carbon and get 5kg of ocean plastic removed on your behalf.

These powerful sustainable incentives are aggregated into an individual user dashboard so that employees can see their own impact. Employers also have their own dashboard showing the total impact across their entire workforce. It is about involving your people in your own sustainability journey with everyone doing their bit and the impacts aggregating together to making a real difference!

4me sustainable benefits

Our unique approach makes it easy for you to support your corporate objectives by making benefits more sustainable. 


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