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The Cool New Job Perk that Encourages Slow Travel

We've covered "anti-perks" so it's exciting to learn about a cool new job perk that actually can be meaningful for people and the planet! It's called Climate Perks and it is a charity-run employee benefit that allows companies to give staff extra time off to travel on holiday without flying. Perfect for the travel industry as it still encourages people to travel, just more slowly! We chat with Climate Perks campaign manager Hannah Bland about this program and how hotel companies can get involved as both a member and marketing partner to the 65 + companies that have already joined the program.

Hannah Bland, campaign manager, Climate Perks
Hannah Bland, campaign manager, Climate Perks

Hi Hannah, tell us about Climate Perks?

Climate Perks is an employee benefit that gives staff extra time off work when they travel to their holiday destinations without flying. It is a straightforward and inexpensive way that companies can show climate leadership, and ensure staff who choose climate-friendly holidays don’t lose out on their hard-earned leisure time.

For some context, I work for the climate action charity Possible and Climate Perks is just one of our projects. At Possible, we create, build, and share ways people can take positive meaningful action on climate change. Whether we’re running tree-planting days, plugging community-owned solar into train lines or lobbying MPs on onshore wind, everything we do is about inspiring more people to take more ambitious action on climate change. Climate Perks is very much a part of that mission.

For those of us who love to travel, reducing flying is probably the fastest way to shrink our carbon emissions (a single return flight from London to Berlin clocks up the same amount of carbon as thirteen return trips by train!). But it can be difficult to choose slower transport options like trains and coaches over flying when you have a limited number of days you can take off work. This means workplaces have an important role in speeding up the transition to sustainable travel.

ways for women to reduce their carbon footprint
Ways to reduce carbon emissions according to Climate Perks

Through our Climate Perks project, we work with organisations who are keen to demonstrate their climate leadership, and help them implement a policy in which staff can claim paid ‘journey days’ on top of annual leave for flight-free travel. In this way, Climate Perks enables staff to holiday without harming the planet, empowering them to live their values.

How does it work?

Climate Perks employers offer their staff a minimum of two ‘journey days’ per year for flight-free holiday travel. This would sit in an organisation's employee benefits package. It is similar to paid volunteering leave which many employers offer, in that it is paid time off work that staff can claim on top of their annual leave allowance for a particular reason, in this case, they take the time off work in order to travel by train, coach or ferry to their holiday destination.

berlin to london train versus plane

Let’s take London to Berlin as an example (a return flight to Berlin clocks up the same amount of carbon as thirteen return train journeys!). To get to Berlin from London takes around four hours (including airport check-in time). The fastest way to make that journey by train will take closer to 12 hours. There’s a lot to love about rail travel in Europe, that trip could have you stopping in Paris for a morning croissant and then Cologne to stretch your legs and grab some lunch before you hop on the third and final train which will get you to Berlin in time for dinner.

Without Climate Perks, catching the train would mean an extra 16 hours of precious annual leave would be spent travelling. If your employer has signed up to Climate Perks, you would simply show them the time difference, and they would give you those 16 hours (or two working days) as additional paid leave, so you don’t miss out on leisure time.

Personally, on my holiday in October, I took the train to Zurich. I left London late morning, had lunch in Paris, and arrived in the centre of Zurich at around 10 pm. And the journey was gorgeous––you see so much more when travelling through countries rather than over them. Plus you get the benefits of having luggage with you, being able to walk around, and more spacious seats, my partner is very tall, so really appreciated the extra room!

How do companies get involved?

Climate Perks is quick and simple to set up and there is no membership fee. We have designed it so that admin is kept to a minimum, and even have a template policy and employee claim form that members can use or tailor to fit their needs.

Then, once the organisation joins the scheme, we support them to engage and inform their staff as well as celebrating it publicly; they are able to use the Climate Perks accredited stamp of recognition, are listed publicly on the Climate Perks website and are invited to benefit from public PR and press coverage.

Wow, amazing concept! How many companies have signed up so far?

At the moment, there are 68 organisations helping their staff choose climate-friendly travel with Climate Perks, and it’s growing quickly.

Climate Perks
companies who have already signed up for Climate Perks

It’s really exciting to see so many organisations of different shapes and sizes ready to walk the talk on sustainability and put in place tangible policies to help their team live lower carbon lifestyles. Employers who are part of this range from architects to accountants, and legal firms to NGOs, and the government’s own climate advisers, The Climate Change Committee, signed up just last month!

Businesses are realising that they need to step up on climate action (there was a report last year showing that over a third of UK workers would consider quitting their jobs if they felt their employer wasn’t doing enough on the issue!). Climate Perks is a quick, simple, and inexpensive way that employers can show their team (and the external world) that they’re taking the climate crisis seriously.

No hotel partners yet? Seems like this would be a great initiative for hotel companies to offer as an employee benefit!

Absolutely - Hotels would be a great fit for Climate Perks!

Climate Perks employers value travel - that’s why they know paid journey days are so important. While we can swap solar panels for power stations and electric vehicles for dirty diesels, there’s just no such thing as a fossil-fuel free aeroplane. And there isn’t going to be for the foreseeable future. Travelling sustainably means travelling slowly. So to protect the future of travel, we must speed up the shift towards trains, coaches and ferries.

Travelling sustainably means travelling slowly. So to protect the future of travel, we must speed up the shift towards trains, coaches and ferries.

We have a few transport and holiday companies signed up for Climate Perks, but haven’t yet had our first hotel join, and this is missing a trick. Travel and hospitality go hand in hand - and we think hospitality workers should be at the forefront of the transition to climate-friendly holidays.

We’ve found that when a new organisation is the first in its sector, there can be a snowball effect. This is partly due to the sector-specific press opportunities that we can tap into when a new employer signs up, but it is also due to more informal networks within industries, and the sense of not being ‘left behind’ when peers (or competitors) are stepping up on climate action. We’re confident that the first hotel to join Climate Perks will spark a step-change in hospitality, in favour of bolder climate action.

Would you be open to hotel companies that wanted to partner with discounts or other offers to your current membership?

Yes, absolutely. It’d be great to partner with hotel companies. People use their Climate Perks ‘journey days’ to go on holiday, and most will need a place to stay once they arrive. What’s more, unlike flying, slow travel offers great opportunities to easily spend a night in a city en route to your final destination. I’ll be spending a night in a hotel in Barcelona on my route to Madrid this summer!

A hotel discount for Climate Perks users would be a win-win. The hotel would be able to show that they’re supporting climate-friendly travel, and would attract customers from the Climate Perks network. And for travelers, their decision on where to stay could be easier (there are often a lot of options!), and cheaper of course! So we’re definitely interested in talking to hotel companies about discounts or other offers.

Climate Perks sounds like a great program, thanks for chatting with us Hannah!

If you or your company is interested to learn more, email Hannah.


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