De Volksbank - known for the ASN, BLG Wonen, RegioBank and SNS brands - has 3,200 employees, all of whom are free to choose how to get to and from work.
However, the company does encourage them to look beyond their car alone. Moreover, all company cars are set to be fully electric, dealing a major blow to carbon emissions. 22% of the fleet is now all-electric.
Freedom to choose
Volksbank has a rich history of mergers and acquisitions, says Arno Veenman, HR Advisor Expertise. As a result, relatively many employees live quite far away from their jobs. Commutes of more than 40km each way are common and many live nowhere near a train station. For Veenman, giving employees the freedom to choose their own preferred mode of transport was the obvious move. ‘In practice, we see that 50% take public transport, while the rest drive. Only a small number of people come by bike.’
Cutting distance travelled in half with flexible working
By the end of 2020, Volksbank aims to have reduced its carbon emissions by half compared to 2014. ‘It’s a major challenge’, Veenman admits, ‘and mobility nudges are our main tool in achieving this goal. Before 2014, we put a lot of effort into greening our operations, such as by introducing a new way of working that sees employees come into the office two days a week and work from home for two days. In theory, this should enable us to cut the total distance travelled in half.’
Switching to electrical company cars
‘In order to discourage its employees from commuting by car, Volksbank has had a low kilometre allowance for years, and Veenman doesn’t believe there’s much room to go any lower. Rather, he expects company cars to prompt the biggest shift: ‘We now aim to only order 100% electric vehicles.’ The company has already ordered its first electric vehicles, but the limited availability and range of EVs has proven to be a challenge. ‘If you want to be ahead of the curve, you have to be willing to take the plunge even in sub-optimal conditions, Veenman believes.’
If there’s no way to cut distance travelled anymore, other measures will have to be taken to achieve the 50% carbon reduction target. NS has offered Veenman a valuable helping hand by switching to climate-neutral trains. ‘It will save us 600 tonnes of emissions’, Veenman explains, ‘which amounts to 20% of our 50% target. We can achieve the remaining 30% by switching to electrical vehicles. I also have high expectations of the increase in flexible working and its impact on commuting. When this new policy is launched, you’ll be able to choose how to commute every day. People choosing to cycle will be rewarded with a higher allowance per kilometre travelled.’
Still, convincing employees to ditch their car has proven to be tricky. Veenman: ‘That’s why we want to introduce flexible travelling. What’s more, we’ll be highlighting alternative ways to commute, such as by organising a transportation week.’ Finally, the company has also expressed its desire to use public transport for business travel wherever possible.
With its valuable tools, NS has given Veenman actionable insights to help him identify employees who could use public transport but have not yet made the switch. During Volksbank’s transportation week, NS advisors will hand out information materials, as well as encouraging people to travel at times that will help them avoid crowds. What else can NS do? Veenman: 'Removing as many concerns as possible and convincing people that their preconceptions about travelling by public transport are wrong. Our primary objective is to generate positive awareness and results. There’s a lot of work you can do in the train.’