The Carbon Trust is a not-for-profit company with a "mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy." However, on Friday, an emailed missive from the Human Resources department at the Carbon Trust downgraded a low carbon form of transport: bikes were all but banned.
The email sent to Carbon Trust employees - and leaked to Copenhagenize.com – states:
"If you choose to cycle FOR work (e.g. attending an external meeting)…your safety is your responsibility. However, the Carbon Trust has a duty of care for all of us, and for this reason, the company does not advocate cycling to and from meetings on company business and an alternative method of travel should always be considered."
The email goes on to explain that employees who chose to get around London on the new Cycle Hire bikes won't be able to claim for the eco-friendly trips:
[NOTE - this article has been updated with new info from the Carbon Trust, reversing the statements in the HR email, see base of article]
"Expense claims for hiring Boris bikes will not be reimbursed by the company. The reason for this is that the company cannot assess the quality or safety of any Boris bike and it is impractical for it to undertake risk assessments for each individual journey and to provide training and equipment."
BikeBiz.com has emailed the Carbon Trust asking whether each and every individual car, taxi, train and bus used by its employees is checked for safety, or whether the 'safety policy' is just for bicycles.
Similarly, does the Carbon Trust place restrictions on its employees walking to and from business meetings?
The organisation's press office is now working on a reply to that email. [NOTE: reply now in, see base]
The Carbon Trust was founded by the previous Government in 2001 and is partly funded from the Climate Change Levy. It finances loan funds for companies working on carbon-saving projects and devices.
According to its corporate brochure, the Carbon Trust receives funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department for Transport, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and Invest Northern Ireland.
In 2009/10 the Carbon Trust received £156 million in its core grant.
It may very well do good work on saving emissions from things such as heat loss from buildings but apparently the Carbon Trust is not so hot on saving emissions from transport. Could one of the reasons for this be the organisation's connection to Big Oil?
Two of the non-executive directors of the Carbon Trust are Dr Paul Jefferiss and James Smith. Jefferiss is Group Head of Policy at BP, and Smith is Chairman of Shell UK. Tom Delay, the organisation's chief executive, also had a career with Shell.
The Carbon Trust can place safety shackles on its employees while they are at work but it can't stop them cycling to work. However, the Carbon Trust has a health and safety before work policy:
"For those of you who choose to cycle to work (or for work), you are reminded that you are responsible for ensuring your own safety.
"As a reminder, the use of appropriate cycling helmets, lights and hi-visibility equipment are considered essential, particularly with the nights drawing in.
"In addition, if you do not consider yourself a competent cyclist, who has taken appropriate provision for your own safety, we advise against you cycling to and from work and for work related meetings and events and from using the London cycle scheme."
Should the Carbon Trust reverse its 'no cycling' policy it might want to invest in some cycle training for its staff. Bikeability offers adult cycling courses. And those Carbon Trust employees with iPhones could find safe urban routes to ride with the free Bike Hub app.
Following the publication of this article, Jim Peacock, Head of Corporate Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at the Carbon Trust, has been in touch. By phone, he told BikeBiz the leaked email was from the Human Resources department and was a "bad piece of communication" and no longer holds true.
"It wasn't the best email in the world. It doesn't give the correct version of how the Carbon Trust views cycling."
"The leaked email was a cautionary email from HR. I can confirm that its contents will now not be actioned.
"The policy of the Carbon Trust is to encourage cycling. In fact, we actively encourage cycling. I cycle to work five days a week and cycle at weekends, too.
"We recently removed car parking spaces to instal secure cycle storage. All our staff can access the Cycle to Work scheme; this is how I bought my bike.
"However, we have 230 staff and we need to look after them. We were reviewing our cycling policies and wanted to advise staff that they would be best to be competent and confidant cyclists to start cycling in London. If they weren't, we would provide them with cycle training.
"I've just spoken to Transport for London. We're very happy for our staff to use Cycle Hire bikes and staff will be reimbursed for using these bikes.
"We are very supportive of the 'Boris Bikes'.
"When staff use their own bikes, they should be as well maintained as Boris Bikes."
In a later email, Jim Peacock issued a statement about the Carbon Trust's approach to cycling for business travel:
"The Carbon Trust actively encourages staff to take the low carbon option for business travel. As part of this we support cycling and actively encourage our employees to cycle by providing access to cycle safety training, secure cycle storage, cycle maintenance, access to the Cycle To Work Scheme and shower facilities in our office.
"The recent email to our staff was sent out of our duty of care for their health and safety, which is something we take very seriously, after a number of recent serious accidents related to staff cycling.
"Having reviewed our approach we support our staff in using bicycles for business travel as long as they feel competent to do so, the bicycle they are using is properly maintained and they are wearing the appropriate safety equipment at all times – a proper cycle helmet, high visibility clothing and front and rear lights.
"We will be reimbursing staff for cycle travel as we do for other forms of transport."
The HR department of the Carbon Trust has now sent out this email:
"Since Friday’s email from a Health & Safety perspective regarding the use of bicycles for business travel we have been contacted by a number of staff seeking clarification on our overall position on cycling.
Due to a number of recent serious accidents related to staff cycling the email was cautionary as we were reviewing our approach.
Our overall position on cycling has always been positive and we have always been supportive of taking the low carbon choice when travelling.
To encourage staff to cycle we have provided access to cycle safety training, secure cycle storage (in place of car parking spaces), cycle maintenance, access to the Cycle To Work Scheme and showering facilities in our office.
Having reviewed our approach we want to clarify our overall support for staff using bicycles for business travel.
This applies to staff using their own bicycles or those hired for business travel.
Furthermore staff wishing to travel by bicycle will be reimbursed through travel expenses as we do other forms of transport.
We recognise there are specific health and safety issues with travelling by bicycle and therefore any staff wishing to travel by bicycle for business travel must comply with the following:
1. Staff must feel competent and confident in their ability to cycle for business travel (training is available).
2. The bicycle being used is properly maintained to a safe standard.
3. Appropriate safety equipment is worn at all times – a proper cycle helmet, high visibility clothing and front and rear lights. We hope this clarifies the situation. Thank you."