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This time it’s personal: WSP revamps personal carbon trading programme

Staff who commit to making sustainability improvements at work could be rewarded with cash bonuses, charity donations and access to special offers, thanks to an innovative employee engagement scheme pioneered by green consultancy WSP Environment and Energy.

Known as Personal Allowance Carbon Trading (PACT), the scheme was launched internally by WSP in 2007 with a view to replicating economy-wide cap-and-trade carbon management models at a personal level.

An annual personal carbon allowance and access to an online tool to track emissions from travel and energy use were given to staff who voluntarily signed up to the scheme. They would then receive a bonus at the end of the year if they operated within their allowance, or face a modest financial penalty if they exceeded the cap imposed by the scheme.

The scheme was subsequently opened up to WSP clients and it currently boasts about 2,200 individuals taking part on a voluntary basis from 15 different organisations, including National Grid, Ecclesiastical Insurance and the London Borough of Haringey.

However, WSP is now looking to expand the PACT scheme further and has revamped the way it operates as part of an effort to attract more individuals to the scheme.

Speaking to BusinessGreen, David Symons, director at WSP, said that the company has ditched the penalty part of the scheme and is now focusing on offering participants a wider range of tailored bonuses, including special offers on green products and charitable donations, as well as straight cash incentives.

"Tracking carbon is still an important part of the programme, but it is also important to show people that some sustainability steps are not just possible, but a better way of living," he said. "We've deliberately contrasted PACT with other sustainability programmes that are based on highlighting negative impacts. That will work with some people, but it will not engage the 60 per cent of people who are interested in sustainable issues, but are often reluctant to take actions.

"We continue to have carbon targets in the scheme, but we've dropped the penalty element as that was putting people off."

In addition, the PACT online portal has been linked with Facebook to allow people to promote their carbon-saving activity to friends and colleagues, while Symons said that participants can now set themselves personal green targets and track their performance against them.

The consultancy is also looking to partner with green firms to offer more special offers and discounts to PACT participants, most notably inking a deal with Good Energy to offer renewable energy to those signed up to the scheme.

Symons said that the changes are already paying off, as the company is in talks with a number of firms about offering the scheme to their employees.

"Employee engagement and commitment is an area that's getting up the green business agenda," he said. "Businesses want to help staff understand that sustainability is relevant to them and ensure they are in a position to help the business meet its wider sustainability goals... We also have plenty of evidence that employees really appreciate these kind of schemes and respect their employer for offering them."

Chris Pitt, environmental manager at Ecclesiastical Insurance, which has seen about 15 per cent of its workforce sign up to the PACT scheme, said the company is using the scheme to help track employees' carbon footprints and is now considering introducing incentives to encourage staff to curb their emissions.

"As a business, we are working to reduce our carbon footprint and we wanted to encourage our employees to do the same," he said. "But we did not find it easy to identify a way of doing so that wasn't finger-wagging or patronising. PACT offered a good way to let people see what their impact was and then incentivise them to take positive action."

By James Murray

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