What can businesses do to tackle the air quality crisis?

bikes and eco friendly cars can make a big difference - and  help out your employees too

Car drivers are the biggest cause of pollution on the roads – no surprises there – so it's time to find an alternative.

The state of the world's air quality is, it must be said, not good – and while the problem is much worse in other parts of the world, the UK needs to face up to the issues at home.

The government has made a start with plans to ban petrol and diesel cars – but not until 2040. Assessments of their plans in the meantime don't really add up to much, so it falls to the people and businesses of the UK to start making a difference now.

There are some big changes that can be made to the way we commute that can make a real impact to air pollution – and there's plenty you can do to help your employees achieve them. After all, car drivers are the biggest cause of pollution on the roads – no surprises there – so it's time to find an alternative.

cycling to work

Swapping the car for a bike makes a huge difference to a person's carbon footprint and can have quite the impact on reducing the harmful effects of air pollution too. In fact, studies carried out in Stockholm found that if everyone who lived within a 30-minute bike ride from work started cycling, population exposure to air pollution would fall by 7%, saving 449 years of life annually in the county!

Fortunately, it's incredibly easy to get employees on their bikes – cycle-to-work schemes help your people spread the cost of a new bike and safety gear up to the value of £1,000, paying it off over 12 or 18 months, with the option to purchase the bike for a small fee at the end of the hire period.

The cost of a good bike can be really prohibitive to many people getting involved with cycling, so cycle-to-work schemes are often just the push people need to finally get on their bikes. They're one of the most popular employee benefits out there for this reason!

a double-edged sword...

Of course, it's important to be careful – until everyone's on their bikes, those that do cycle to work will be getting exposed to that traffic-related pollution on their commutes. However, Cycling UK tell us that the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks from exposure to pollutants – particularly if people are able to find routes off the beaten track.

If people are particularly worried, there are a number of anti-pollution cycling masks on the market. While they're unlikely to be accepted as safety gear under a cycle-to-work scheme (at least not yet!), they only cost about £25 and they can make a difference. They're an increasingly common sight, so there's no need to worry about looking silly.

ultra-low emission cars

Cycling isn't for everyone, of course – but that doesn't mean everyone who lives too far away, or just doesn't fancy the grind of the daily pedal, can't take steps to reduce air pollution.

While petrol and diesel cars are still going to be available until 2040, there are so many models of hybrid or fully electric cars on the market now that there's becoming less and less of an excuse for not considering a low emission model.

An ultra-low emission (ULE) car is one that's either pure electric, a plug-in hybrid, or has CO2 emissions of less than 75kg per kilometre – and must also manage at least ten miles of zero-emission driving And ULE cars aren't just glorified golf carts – from the classic Prius to the BMW i3 and Mitsubishi Outlander, you can get plenty of power without the emissions.

Switching to ULE cars has a massive impact on reducing pollution and it's possible to help your employees access a ULE car through a salary sacrifice scheme, just like the cycle-to-work scheme – they just take a bit longer to pay off.

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the benefits to going green

The benefits to taking steps to reduce your emissions on a company-wide basis goes beyond the environment. Green policies are a great contribution to a workplace culture that puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to making the world a better place.

Employees value ethics

More than ever before, people want to work for companies that have positive values, putting ethics before profit. Research has found that 42% of people want to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world, and this goes up to 62% for younger people (those born between 1981 and 1996).

Even if your younger staff aren't looking to commit to car payments just yet, simply having the option for other employees to do so helps contribute to your image – and, indeed, your practice! – of being an organisation with the interests of the planet at heart.

healthier staff

Cycling has some incredible health benefits and, as we've discussed, they far outweigh the risks from pollution if people are careful.

Many people consider cycling to be one of the most effective forms of exercise there is, working out every muscle group – and all while fitting into the daily routine of the commute. And, of course, it causes no harm to others on the road because there's no emissions to worry about!

tax and ni savings

Finally, if your employees need a bit more of a financial incentive to take up cycling or switch to a different car- cycle-to-work schemes and ULE cars come with fantastic tax and NI savings and they're protected from the recent changes to salary sacrifice schemes.

Simply put, because car and bike payments reduce a person's taxable salary, they pay less tax and NI – and businesses reduce their NI payments too. So, it's savings all around – you can find out more about exactly how it works here.

Ultra-low emission cars often come with the added bonus of a plug-in grant from the government, which can pay for up to 35% of the purchase price of a vehicle! You can find out what cars are included here.

It doesn't take big lifestyle changes to make huge changes to the amount of pollution we're putting into the air – and the benefits for people, businesses and the world we live in, should be obvious. It's win-win – so why not go green today?

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