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How your benefit programs can “Invest in Our Planet”

Connecting sustainability and benefits programs

By Caroline Mangiardi, ASA and Kelsey Stein, MPH | June 2, 2023

As more employees expect employers to share their values, your benefits plan has a role to play in supporting sustainability.
Environmental Risks|Health and Benefits|Benessere integrato
ESG In Sight

Earth Day 2023 was tag lined, “Invest in Our Planet,” what better way to consider investments to support sustainability than through an employer’s benefits program. When you think about ways to respond to employees’ and customers’ increasing expectations that your business be more sustainable, your employee benefits program probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But it’s worth a second look.

Chances are sustainability is already a high priority for your business or it soon will be. WTW’s 2022 Best Practices in Healthcare Survey found that while 50% of employers currently view climate as a high to moderate priority, that percentage jumps to 64% over the next three years.

Employees are also paying attention to sustainability. According to WTW’s 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, 45% of employees say environmental issues are a high priority to them. In the race to attract and retain talent what can you do environmentally to appeal to employees?

As employers review their benefits programs and perks, many benefits are already being provided and can be connected to sustainable practices that support the environment. Below are four ways you as an employer can invest in the planet for employees, ranked in cost from little-to-no cost to higher investment.

  1. Employee Resource Group – Employers are building employee or business resource groups (ERG or BRG) to foster community and allyship within organizations. A sustainable-focused ERG provides your environment-passionate employees a space to share tips, questions and promote benefits and perks that positively impact our planet.
  2. Commuter Benefit Program – Commuter benefits (for public transportation and parking) have been around for many years. Now, you can market these tax-favored programs to increase employees’ use of public transit. You can also support cycling and e-bike commuting by ensuring areas to securely store bikes and highlighting local bike share systems that may offer discounts for local employees.
  3. Discount Program – Many employers provide employee access to a benefit discount site for travel, family care and technology. Customizing discounts and expanding these programs to include energy efficient appliances, electric vehicles, solar panels and sustainable travel is an easy way to highlight “green” practices that can have a future return on investment for employees.
  4. Volunteer time off and donation match – While the priciest on this list, these benefits are highly effective in supporting one’s community. Providing just one day of volunteer time off per year can afford employees much-desired time to support their favorite organizations – which could be connected to sustainability through park/beach cleanups, food rescue or volunteering at a local shelter. If you’re not able to provide volunteer time off, your organization can sponsor a company-funded activity or outing that supports the immediate community and connects employees. A donation match program can work similarly, providing matching employer funds for each dollar (up to a defined per-employee maximum) to support climate-forward organizations.

These benefits represent just a few examples of initiatives that can support sustainable practices and are easily implemented and administered with a relatively minimal impact on employer spending. Further, they can augment your attraction and retention strategy and support employees in their pursuit of climate and sustainability initiatives. While these benefits focused on above are a great start, employers can also look to retirement plans comprised of a green portfolio to continue progressing the inclusivity and climate-supportive nature of their benefits programs.


Associate Director, Health & Benefits | DEI | Climate
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Associate Director, Health & Benefits
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