Company car policies are an increasingly standard element of any corporate benefits package, but with just one in five fleets (18%) placing environmental issues at the top of their agenda*, the impact on both the environment and an organisation’s own internal sustainability policies can be damaging. For Crest Nicholson, a company consistently rated as one of the leading UK housebuilders in responding to the challenges of climate change, the need to balance the demands of employee benefit, cost effectiveness and sustainability has resulted in the introduction of a new and progressive environmental policy across its entire fleet of 230 company cars.

Research has shown that the most important factor for employees choosing a company car is still the amount of tax they pay, and so Crest Nicholson has implemented a maximum emissions cap of 195g/km across all its company-owned vehicles, but combined this with a unique incentivisation scheme that aims to encourage and reward the use of low emission vehicles across the Group.

In practice this means that car drivers will receive a 20% uplift to their allowance if they choose a car with CO2 emissions of 130g/km or less, enabling them to either spend 20% more when ordering a new car or receive the difference as a cash supplement. The 195g/km cap will be further reduced to 185g/km in November 2010, reflecting the necessity for companies to progressively improve environmental performance.

Any company car scheme needs to respond to the requirements and wishes of its employees, and so the previous restriction to diesel only cars has also been lifted, whilst the emissions cap for those receiving just a car allowance has been removed altogether. This ensures greater choice and flexibility for those that may still want a high performance vehicle, but combines it with a considerable incentive that encourages staff to think low carbon.

As Stephen Stone, Chief Executive of Crest Nicholson said “Being a sustainable developer is a matter of passion and commercial imperative and, whilst we may be benchmarked on our environmental performance in the external delivery of sustainable housing, it is also fundamental that we examine every aspect of our internal operations. Put simply, it’s about walking the talk. As a socially responsible developer we aim to encourage and facilitate more sustainable practices at every level of our operations, and the introduction of a new fleet management policy is a huge step in the right direction.”

The regulation of CO2 emissions from company vehicles has been an integral part of government policy since 2002, but striving to reduce the emissions gap above and beyond government targets has long been a crucial aspect of Crest Nicholson’s company wide ethos to control the environmental impact of its business. The car scheme will therefore be reviewed annually to enable the company to maintain a close watch on the overall carbon footprint of the entire fleet, as well as monitor the production of new vehicles and thereby reduce the emissions cap in line with manufacturer achievements.

Crest Nicholson has long been recognised as leading the way in introducing new solutions for a sustainable future. As well as holding The Queens Award for Sustainable Development, last November it was also named ‘Sustainable Housebuilder of the Year’ in the Housebuilding Innovation Awards, run by the Home Builders Federation and in association with the NHBC, and also won the same category in the Sustainability Awards a year prior, in 2008. Crest Nicholson is also listed in the top two of the UK’s 25 largest residential developers in terms of addressing sustainability issues and building more eco-friendly homes, according to the NextGeneration annual independent review of the residential sector.

Stephen added: “For us, being a sustainable developer is one of the most important fundamentals of our business. After all, carbon emissions are not in recession and the challenges of climate change will not disappear. As we achieve one milestone we must push ourselves to reach another. This is an industry in which environmental standards and expectations are constantly rising, and in order to stay at the forefront of these developments we are committed to working alongside government and industry to develop exacting but achievable standards and ultimately this means constantly reviewing every aspect of the business.”