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Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, November 02, 2005 5:13 PM
Helping Employees into Hybrids
David Batstone on Business

Commuting to a job can be a pricey proposition these days. So I searched out a few model companies that are turning green to save some cash and save the air we breathe. They are handing out cash bonuses to employees who buy fuel-efficient cars.

The leader of the pack is Hyperion Solutions. The Santa Clara, Calif., software company jump-started the trend last year with its Drive Clean to Drive Change program. An employee gets $5,000 if he or she purchases a car -- most likely a hybrid -- with an EPA rating of 45 mpg or better. Hyperion promises to distribute the bonuses to as many as 200 employees annually on a first-come, first-serve basis. Anyone who has worked at Hyperion for at least a year is eligible, and veterans can reapply every four years. So far 75 employees have taken advantage of the program, and Hyperion has set up a how-to guide on its website for other companies looking to launch fuel-friendly initiatives.

'Our employees care about global warming and the impact of their commute,' Godfrey Sullivan, Hyperion's president and CEO told me.

Sullivan decided to do something innovative to help them. Employees must complete one year at Hyperion to be eligible for a reimbursement, and they can apply it toward a new car once every four years. The company promises to distribute the cash rewards for up to 200 employees annually on a first come, first serve basis. The offer is also open to Hyperion's 1,000 workers who operate outside the U.S.\n\nSullivan reported to me that recent global events have added to the appeal of his company's hybrid program. 'The rise in gas prices and a heightened sensitivity to energy conservation at the moment translate into even more employee enthusiasm for our program,' he said.\n\nHyperion hopes to spark a green commuter movement. To assist other companies that aim to create their own hybrid car program, Hyperion shares at its corporate Website a how-to manual describing how firms can create their own hybrid benefit program.\n\nIndeed, a revolution may be brewing. Within months of the launch of Drive Clean to Drive Change, both Timberland and Google announced their own hybrid car programs. Google offers its workforce a two-tier bonus system: $5000 reimbursement for a new hybrid car and $2500 for leasing one.\n\nTimberland, the New Hampshire company known for its hiking boots, gives its employees $3,000 toward the purchase of a hybrid. I asked Betsy Blaisdell, Timberland's manager of environmental stewardship, what motivated Timberland into an employee hybrid program. She says the earth-friendly perk fits snugly into the corporate culture: 'We are all outdoorsy people who want to preserve the places we enjoy.'

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