This is a worthy mini-trend:
A growing number of small companies like Topics also are seeing value in encouraging employees to make environmentally friendlier choices as well — at home, at work and in their commutes.
Among the incentives: giving bonuses to employees who buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and outfit their homes in more energy-efficient ways, as well as helping employees support environmental causes. Even low-cost measures, such as letting employees purchase energy-efficient light bulbs at the employer’s bulk price, are making a difference in employees’ behavior and energy use.
Recently I wrote about feebates, a system under consideration in California that would tack a surcharge onto gas guzzlers, and subsidize fuel-efficient cars. In response, someone asked why we don’t reward bicycle and bus riders. One answer is that such a program would suffer from all sorts of incentive and enforcement problems. But a green-minded employer has a lot more room to get creative:
[Clif Bar & Co.] rewards points to employees who commute by public transportation, car pool, walk or bike. The points can be exchanged for cash or rewards like gift certificates to Whole Foods Market and free massages.
This week, Clif is introducing two new benefits — one giving employees as much as $1,000 annually for making energy-saving home improvements, like buying more energy-efficient appliances and home compost kits; and one offering as much as $500 to buy or retrofit a commuter bicycle, like installing a basket to hold things.
The difference between these small-scale programs and a statewide mandate is that employers can rely on social norms to keep people honest and generate enthusiasm for the programs. They’re sort of like microfinance in that way. Good stuff.