Companies reward fuel-efficient employees with cash


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.

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  1. JD Howell - February 27, 2008

    This is great grassroots advocacy. I am aware of this mini-trend elsewhere. While working for Bike Friday Bicycles, I was impressed that they put together a cash pool of money monthly, and divided it up between the employees based on the number of days you walk, rode a bike, took a bus, or carpooled to the tune of 120 mpg (4-people in a 30mpg vehicle). I had chunks of money added to my paycheck every month just for riding my bike to work. Man, I wish I had a dollar for every day I’ve ridden my bike to work, school, store – in my lifetime. What a concept !
    If you’re an employer, get on board this concept and start with something as small as $100 a month , split between your staff (more if you have more people, eh?). In the meantime… I’ll see you out there, on my bike of course.

  2. Evan T. Little - February 27, 2008

    Really great stuff!
    Now as consumers we should do our best to shop at the businesses that are encouraging their employees in such ways.

  3. Aaron A. - February 28, 2008

    Programs like Clif’s would be nice to have, and it also demonstrates it doesn’t require a big investment to encourage conservation. My employer has a deal with several local bike shops so that we save 10% on all our gear, or the company will split the price of a bus pass. For relatively little cost, the program relieves congestion in our parking lots and feeder streets, it reduces pollution, and it promotes employee fitness.
    — A.