Firms can benefit from a smaller carbon footprint

There may not be many win-wins in business today, but helping employees to protect the environment and lower a company’s utility bills has to be one of them. Green issues are capturing more of the public’s attention, while sustainability is rapidly moving up the business agenda under the heading of Corporate Social Responsibility.


Bringing these two parallel lines together makes sound business sense, for several reasons. Engaging with employees about reducing energy, water and waste can deliver savings of up to 26% on utility bills, according to the Carbon Trust in the UK. The results match those of American expert Andrew Savitz, who found that employer appeal, employee engagement, and productivity can all be increased by being more sustainable.


Greater employee engagement

However, the benefits of being more sustainable go well beyond cost control and a smaller carbon footprint. For Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, the Trust found that giving staff the opportunity to take part in activities that benefit society and the environment creates a more loyal, harder-working and better-bonded team.

So how can companies provide these opportunities?


A popular answer is to create a program that rewards employees for saving energy and resources, whether at work or at home. Cycle-to-work schemes are one easy way to save CO2 emissions and improve personal health and fitness. Employers could also offer gifts and rewards made of recycled materials, or provide vouchers in digital rather than paper form. Alternatively, companies can choose to give experiential rewards instead.


As employers look for new options, the idea of turning sustainability into a game for employees is also gaining ground. In the U.S., Lockheed Martin created the Carbon Footprint Reduction Game, where employees score points for installing energy-efficient light bulbs at home, for learning how to set a central heating thermostat more efficiently, and for watching educational videos on how to save energy. Game initiatives are enjoyable, and the points scored can then be linked to a company’s benefits and reward scheme.


Sustainability can be fun

Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services is playing its part by raising awareness internally and helping clients to engage their employees. The Transborde Atitudes initiative in Brazil to save water and electricity is just one example of this policy in action. At the headquarters building, water meters were installed on each floor to create a competition – with employees on the floor that used the least amount of water being rewarded on their Sodexo Premium Pass. In HQ, waste water was regulated, while lighting and elevator use was reduced at evenings and weekends. The three-month exercise in 2015 led to an 11% reduction in water, 29% in energy and the elimination of 40,000 plastic bottles.

“Our incentives are tried out on our own employees first, so we know the results and have materials ready to show clients,” explains Luciana Aoki, Communications Manager, Products. “There was a water crisis in Brazil and we wanted to show we could encourage people to be more sustainable. It takes time to change behaviors, but the game among different floors made it fun and really speeded things up.” Another key move was switching from bottled water to using water filters that were already installed – saving €3,000 a month.


A wealth of opportunities

Other programs include the “Responsible Restaurant” initiative in Tunisia, where cooking oils and plastic waste are now collected by 800 Sodexo affiliated restaurants. In Belgium, the Sodexo Eco-Pass® enables cardholders to purchase low-energy consumer goods – a sustainable tweak to the ever-popular employee reward card. The variety of these initiatives underlines an important fact. There are many opportunities to change a company’s carbon footprint for the better: the key is in motivating people to make that change.