'Sustainable travel will be the norm'

ABN AMRO HR Director Reward & Performance Management Frank van den Brink

Now that the bank’s premises are nearly zero-energy, ABN AMRO is shifting its focus to its employees’ daily commute. Sustainable travel is the name of the game. The aim is to halve the carbon emissions generated by staff commuting to work each day. How does the bank plan to meet this objective? Frank van den Brink, HR Director of Reward & Performance Management, says, 'Soon our employees can boast that one-quarter of all their colleagues cycle to work and that nearly half take public transport.'

Why a sustainable mobility policy?

'It’s not as if the bank hasn’t focused on this issue at all over the past few years. In fact, staff already have the option to request the public transport card of their choice. At least 6,500 of all employees – that’s about 34% of the bank’s workforce – have taken advantage of the scheme so far. But it’s time we take sustainable mobility to the next level. The idea arose during the run-up to the Paris climate summit in 2015. Our aim is to halve by 2020 the carbon emissions generated by staff commuting to work each day. To that end, we brought together delegates from all the bank’s entities to ask them what they felt we should be doing to cut our emissions.'

The outcome?

'Our approach has to involve the following three aspects: car mileage, parking and options. The bank’s company cars generate two-thirds of our emissions. And that means we’ll have the biggest impact if we reduce the number of kilometres our employees are driving. A balanced mix of deterrents and incentives involving parking and transport will help make this happen.' 

'To start with, we’ll be reducing to 800 the number of parking spaces at and around our head office in Amsterdam over the coming years. Employees’ chances of being able to park will depend on such factors as the need to travel for work, how long their commute is, their access to public transport and their physical vitality.' 

'As far as company cars go, my expectation is that over time the whole concept will completely disappear. But we’re not there yet. In the meantime, we’ve reduced the number of cars employees can choose from by setting the maximum level of carbon emissions from new company cars, a level which is reduced each year. Stricter eligibility criteria are also being introduced. For instance, only those employees driving 15,000 km for work purposes, excluding their commute, will be eligible for a company car. That used to be 12,000 km.' 

'A company car is an important, and often emotionally charged, fringe benefit'

'By offering employees alternatives, we hope to encourage them to make more sustainable choices when it comes to their commute. We’re including the public transport bike and the mixed parking and public transport options (where employees park at the city’s perimeter and then take public transport in to the office, a scheme known as “P+R” in Dutch) on public transport cards. We’re also focusing on electric bikes. 9% of the bank’s workforce currently cycles to the office. We want to raise that figure to 23%. An electric company bike is now included in all employee travel budgets, and our bicycle parking facilities are equipped with additional recharging devices. Car sharing is another exciting option. Currently, 10,000 ABN AMRO employees live in close proximity – a maximum distance of 500 m – to at least one other colleague. And 4,000 live near more than four colleagues.'

How are staff responding?

'We’ve had plenty of emails and letters in from people who think it’s a great idea that we’re helping to make the world more sustainable. Lots of employees want to know how they personally can do even more to contribute. They like the idea of being able to boast at birthday parties that a quarter of the bank’s workforce cycles to the office. The fact remains, though, that for many people there’s a lot of emotion around travelling to and from work. A company car is an important fringe benefit. We need to make it crystal clear that this isn’t about short-term pain but about long-term gain, and that although we’re limiting options for company cars, we’re also increasing the number of sustainable options for people to commute to and from the workplace. Transparent, clear communication on this has never been more important. We want our employees to understand why we aim to be sustainable and won’t be backing down on this important issue.'

What savings will sustainable travel generate for the bank?

'The two main cost items are parking and cars. Up to now, we haven’t been fully transparent about the cost of either. As a result, it’s not always been clear what the costs are for the organisation where the unsustainable use of cars is concerned. I think it will help if we first make these costs transparent, then ask our employees to bear some of the responsibility that sustainability entails. We’ll be generating further savings for the bank by standardising the company car scheme and by reducing the number of additional parking spaces we rent in Amsterdam. But let me be clear: cost savings is not the point here. We’ll be putting the money we save towards creating even more sustainable options. We’re already issuing those who drive a company car with a mobility card to encourage them to also use public transport. We’re enabling employees to park remotely via P+R, through which we’re funding the new e-bike scheme.'

Does the new policy go far enough?

'We’ve taken a very important first step. We’ve tied an objective to the sustainable commute, and we’re going to meet that objective. But I’m obviously thinking about uncharted territory as well, like our flying policy. There’s still plenty of work to do there. I think we can be satisfied only once sustainable travel is the norm.'

Reduction goals

Time frame Carbon emissions mobility Reduction
late 2013 20.09 0%
late 2014 17.98 11%
late 2015 16.55 18%
late 2016 15.03 25%
late 2017 14.15 30%
late 2018 13.23 34%
late 2019 12.40 38%
late 2020 11.40 43%