As the world dissects the impact of COP26 in Glasgow and efforts to stem the impacts of global warming, a new idea that is gaining traction is to what extent employers can help reduce people’s impact on the environment by adjusting vacation allowances and entitlements.
One idea is that companies would / should additional leave for employees if they are not flying to their vacation destinations and find other more sustainable ways to travel.
As reported by The Guardian, companies can take up the challenge through Climate Perks, an environmental initiative. Employees who make more sustainable travel choices, like choosing a ten-hour train over a two-hour plane trip, will be given a half or full day off to do so.
Obviously there are environmental benefits. According to climatic advantages, flight is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases (but interestingly, only 20% of the population has ever flown). And it is by increasing the time people have to take their vacations that these climate challenges could be overcome. Price, the other determining factor, could also be helped by people having more choice over travel times.
There are many more choices for eco-friendly travel options. For example, many more long-distance trains are being reintroduced across Europe, especially as countries ban short-haul flights if there is a train substitute – France is one example – with the aim of ” achieve environmental objectives. The telegraph reported on the wide variety of possibilities to travel the world without flying – take the Eurostar to Athens or take a freight ship to Canada.
A recent report from Skyscanner found that people are increasingly thinking about sustainable travel, even though they feel they don’t have the right information or enough information to make the best decisions. Interestingly, travelers from all countries surveyed except Japan were willing to pay more for an eco-friendly flight – around 11-20% more.
Another idea touted by the holiday company TUI, offers remote work packages to companies as a benefit for employees, where workers can go abroad for a period of time to a construction site. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, for example, told staff he would be allowed to work remotely for up to four weeks a year. TUI launched work packages for stays of 21 or 28 days in 50 all-inclusive hotels and resorts.
Richard Sofer, Commercial and Business Development Director at TUI UK and Ireland, says: “I have spoken, just conceptually, to a few large employers in the UK about how they feel about this. And there is certainly some interest in it at a very high level. Sofer added, as reported by Skift, that “companies could see this as a fantastic benefit for employees.” They could even use it as a reward mechanism or integrate it into their own employee benefit programs. “
This could be a way to avoid the environmental impacts of increased travel as the world returns to a new travel normal. Just look the idea of ”revenge trip”, how the travel industry expects people to travel more after the Covid-19 pandemic simply because they can, as travel restrictions decrease over time and countries are reopening.
However, this could be just another way to widen the gap between wanting to travel and not being able to travel. The notion of travel became increasingly divided during Covid-19 between the haves and have-nots – those with the money and time to jump through the hoops of travel bans and testing requirements, and those who don’t have jobs that offer the luxury of paid time off. There are vast swathes of people, after all, for whom international travel falls so far off the radar of expectations, and many families who can’t even afford national vacations, let alone international vacations.
Wealth has always determined travel, but people are spending more and more on what was once taken for granted – looking for a second passport that offers more protection than the first, or having to pay for quarantine and testing for a family of four. The new work policy regarding employee vacation and travel may become another example of how The Economist believe that “international travel could become exclusive, as it did in the middle of the twentieth century”.