The Business Case For Clean Air
From the transfixing red rocks in the south to the pristine ski slopes of the north, much of Utah’s desirability as a business destination is linked to our spectacular natural environment. While Utah’s superb business climate is unquestionably one of the top reasons businesses move here, Utah’s quality of life remains a major selection factor for corporations and people looking to relocate to our state.
One factor that negatively affects our quality of life is poor air quality. While the air pollution has a real impact on a company’s ability to attract and retain new employees, it can also increase health care costs, place regulatory burdens on businesses, and even put Utah’s federal highway funding at risk.
While we can’t do much about our geography, we can control the choices we make to help decrease the emissions that cause air pollution. That’s why, for the last 10 years, the Salt Lake Chamber has partnered with TravelWise and UCAIR to host the Clear The Air Challenge—a month-long competition designed to encourage Utahns to reduce their vehicle emissions by choosing alternatives to their regular commute.
Thankfully, more and more businesses are recognizing the impact that poor air quality has on our economy and have made it their goal to work towards improving our air. One way they’ve been able to do so is by encouraging their employees to take part in the challenge to incorporate TravelWise strategies into their daily commutes.
Currently, about 48 percent of the emissions that make up Utah’s poor air quality come from vehicle tailpipes. To reduce the number of cars on the road and lower their company’s overall carbon footprint, many Utah businesses have implemented teleworking programs. Teleworking ― or working from a remote location outside of a traditional office setting ― is becoming more prevalent with advances in technology and innovative business practices. With a laptop, cell phone, and a reliable internet connection, just about anywhere could be considered an office these days.
Teleworking is cited as one of the top non-financial benefits desired by employees. A survey by Global Workplace Analytics revealed that 80 percent of employees surveyed considered teleworking a job perk, and 36 percent would choose flexible work schedules or telecommuting options over a pay raise.
When it comes to employers, nearly six out of 10 surveyed identified cost savings, including real estate, gasoline, parking costs, and other office expenses as a significant benefit to telecommuting. The ability to work from almost anywhere can be valuable to employees, employers and, in effect, all Utahns during periods of poor air quality. Skipping a trip to the office and teleworking—even just one day a week or on a red air day—can help make a difference.
For those employees who do need to travel into work, there are other emission-saving transportation options employers can encourage their employees to utilize. Some Utah companies allow flexible work schedules so that employees can commute outside of peak travel times, saving time and cutting down on both emissions and congestion on our roadways. Others encourage and incentivize carpooling. In addition to the cost-saving benefits, when coworkers carpool together they have less stress, better office relationships, and are retained at a higher rate.
Then there are those Utah companies who provide transit passes or fare reimbursement for those employees who use public transit. By incentivizing employees to use public transit, businesses can make a big difference in regards to Utah’s air quality. According to the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), if everyone along the Wasatch Front who currently drives to work would take transit just one day a week, UTA would triple its ridership, remove 300,000 car trips from the road daily, and eliminate 10 million vehicle miles of driving every day.
As Utah’s business community works together and continues to take the lead in improving our air quality, we can collectively reduce the adverse effects of air pollution, ensure our economic success, and enhance the well-being of all Utahns.