At de Volksbank, known for its ASN, BLG Wonen, RegioBank and SNS brands, all 3,200 employees are free to choose their preferred mode of transport.
Primarily, though, the company wants its employees to look beyond their cars more often, and is making the switch to fully electric lease cars in order to reduce carbon emissions. Currently, 22% of the company's fleet is fully electric.
De Volksbank has a rich history of mergers and acquisitions, says Arno Veenman, Expertise HR adviser. As a result, a relatively large share of our employees have long commutes. Many of them have to travel more than 40 kilometres, and not all of them live near a station. As such, the logical choice - according to Veenman - is to let employees choose their preferred mode of transport: 'In practice, about half of them travel with public transport, with the rest commuting by car. Only a very small group of people come by bike.'
Cutting commutes in half with flexible working
By the end of 2020, de Volksbank wants to have reduced its carbon emissions by half, compared to 2014. 'This is a major challenge', says Veenman, 'and mobility is the primary means to achieve our goals. We put in a lot of effort to make our operations more sustainable before 2014, by implementing flexible working, for instance. The idea is that you spend 2 days working from the office and two days from home, theoretically cutting commutes in half.'
Lease cars turn electric
De Volksbank has had a relatively low commuting allowance for years, with the aim of discouraging employees to commute by car. Veenman doesn't see much room for improvement there. Lease cars will go through the biggest transformation: it's our goal to make sure that all the cars we order are 100% electric.' The first electric cars have already been ordered, but the range of electric cars - and their action radius - is still rather limited. 'If you want to be a front runner, you have to be willing to make decisions even if the conditions are sub-optimal', says Veenman.
If we can't make further cuts to commuting distances, we will have to look elsewhere to achieve our goal of reducing 50% of our carbon emissions. Luckily, Veenman can count on NS to help, whose trains are set to become climate neutral. 'Helping us save 600 tonnes of emissions', Veenman explains. 'That's a whopping 20% of our planned total. The other 30% will come from the switch to electric cars. I also expect a lot from our more flexible approach to commuting: as soon as our new policy comes into force, you'll be able to choose how you want to travel to work from one day to the next. If you choose to come by bike, we'll give you a higher allowance.'
Still, it is never easy to get employees to give up their cars. Veenman: 'That's why we want to introduce flexible commuting. We'll also explicitly start asking employees to consider changing the way they commute, such as in our "Transport week". The company also wants its employees to use public transport for business travel as much as possible.
Tools developed by NS give Veenman insight into which groups of employees can use public transport, but don't do this yet. During Transport week at de Volksbank, NS advisors will visit the company in order to inform its employees, recommending good times to travel in order to avoid full trains, for instance. Is there anything else NS can do? Veenman: 'Making travelling by train as easy as possible and convincing people that their prejudices about public transport aren't right. The key principle is that we want to generate positive attention and positive results. You can do a lot of work when travelling by train.'