Climate Perks is a new pilot scheme that has just been launched by 10:10, the UK-based climate solutions NGO. As its new website explains, “Climate Perks employers offer paid ‘journey days’ to empower staff to live their values and choose low-carbon holiday travel”.
The premise is as simple as that. It often takes longer and costs more to get places by train or boat than it does by plane. Therefore, when people choose their holidays, they go by plane.
Any employer who signs up to Climate Perks commits to offer their employees 2 ‘journey days’ a year, so long as they travel overland or sea. These are not holiday days, and they aren’t part of your annual leave. They are extra days, only given out so long as you choose not to fly. And they are paid days, so depending upon what you earn, and how far you travel, they are more than likely to cover the extra cost of taking the train.
It’s a wonderfully simple idea, and one already being used by organisations such as the insurer Naturesave, and the Swedish train company MTR Express. It is an idea that I strongly believe the travel industry should be pioneering. And here’s why…
1 – It works
When people take the train rather than the plane, it greatly reduces the actual climate change-related emissions caused by going on holiday. We aren’t offsetting them in the future. And by transferring our money from aviation into rail, we are directly funding a sustainable alternative.
2 – It’s good for staff wellbeing and morale
Struggling to attract high quality young people? These are the sort of job perks that communicate very clearly what sort of business you are, what you believe in, and what you are willing to support. Furthermore, as the climate crisis becomes an ever-bigger part of our lives, and the backlash against flying grows, it is going to create an ever-greater internal conflict for many people working in the travel industry.
Making it easier for your staff to take time off without facing such dilemmas is looking out for their wellbeing. It also acknowledges that while individual actions matter, it is actions at a wider, structural level that are necessary to make the scale of change required. And rather than make people feel guilty for their inability to always make the most sustainable choice in a flawed system, it’s about designing the system so that the sustainable choice is the easiest and more rewarding option.
If we don’t do this, sustainable travel risks being an inadvertent tool of division. It will be virtue signaling for those that can afford it.
3 – We need to redesign our products. This will help.
I love that this initiative is called Climate Perks. It is positive. It focuses on the benefits to our wellbeing of living a more sustainable lifestyle. Too often the way we frame sustainability focuses only on what we have to give up, rather than on what we might gain by doing so. This makes it harder to engage all but the most committed.
We need to change the narrative. I’ve written before for this blog about how hotel companies like Martins with their Ecobon loyalty scheme, cities like Bologna with its Bella Mossa sustainable travel scheme, and countries like South Korea with its green credit card programme are rewarding people for choosing the sustainable option. Climate Perks does the same.
Big visionary projects defining the coming decades – like the Green New Deal or the UK Government’s Carbon Neutral 2050 goal – require the reimagining of our industries. Tourism will be affected by this requirement to rethink many of our basic principles more than most. The cheap-flight driven, jet-to-the-other-side-of-the-world-for-a-week model will not survive. All those products in your catalogue will need redesigning.
Many of the people who will be doing the redesigning are sitting in your offices. The more time they spend taking their holidays by train, living these experiences for themselves, understanding the challenges, feeling the joys and benefits, the more they will be able to imagine, create and communicate the products that will ensure your business has a future.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW