How Remote Work Could Reshape a Company’s Sustainability Goals
While corporate sustainability is no longer a new term in eco-friendly industries, it’s still a young field undergoing evolution and growth. In a bid to run a successful business that causes no harm to the environment, organizations began to implement changes in both their workspace and production processes.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic reshaping the world and more and more work becoming remote, businesses have to rethink their sustainability plans and seek new ways to provide environmentally friendly remote services. If you’re looking for creative ways to transform your organization’s impact on the world, then you’ve come to the right place. We understand that managing a team operating from different locations worldwide provides a new challenge, and we know how to help you.
Considering that work-from-home is becoming the new normal for employers and their workforce, the question you’re most likely asking right now is “How does remote work reshape my company’s sustainability goals and initiatives?” Before we answer that question, let us take a quick look at what corporate sustainability is all about.
What Is Corporate Sustainability?
In simple terms, corporate sustainability is steps taken by a company to reduce the effect of their business on the earth. While this term recognizes that running a business is about making a profit, it’s also about creating policies that ensure your organization causes as little damage as possible to the planet we call home.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that corporate sustainability means different things to different people. While some businesses approach it from an environmental angle, others focus on the aspect of education, health, and poverty in trying to achieve their goals. Some company executives choose to focus on equal access to resources as a path to achieving sustainability.
Even if your employees work remotely, there are several sustainability initiatives – developed by governments all around the world – that you can tap into. As you’re about to find out, you can increase customer loyalty by joining the green movement and reducing your environmental footprint on Mother Nature.
Why You Should Adapt Your Business to Achieve Corporate Sustainability
Whether you’re starting your sustainability initiatives from the ground up or you want to build on existing plans, you want to know if it’s all worth the effort. We understand that; after all, your time and resources should be spent wisely.
As your workers continue to settle into the remote work routine, these are some reasons why you should have a sustainability goal:
- Our very existence and health depend on the well-being of the earth. By embracing corporate sustainability as part of your company’s work culture, you also give back to the environment. This is your opportunity to play your role in helping the environment.
- By executing sustainability initiatives, you’ll have happier and more dedicated employees working in safer environmental conditions. That’s not all! It also gives you the opportunity to garner more customer loyalty. People are more likely to continue patronizing your business if they see that your company cares about the environment. This will make them appreciate you more.
- It also keeps you ahead of the competition. By setting your organization as a people-oriented company, you get to reach more people. The world, after all, is going green; you can tap into this movement to grow your business while also doing humanity a great service.
Will Remote Work Truly Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint?
A few months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, Shopify launched a fund devoted to sustainability. This e-commerce giant committed to investing $5 million per year into projects and technology dedicated to combating climate change. One of the organizations they invested in, as part of their sustainability program, is Running Tide, whose mission includes reducing excessive carbon in the atmosphere through natural methods.
Of course, Shopify couldn’t have guessed that a pandemic was about to change the way they work and, by extension, their sustainability initiatives. Moving their employees to work remotely – after the virus struck – presented a new challenge in the company’s sustainability efforts. The questions that need answers include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Is remote work better for the environment?
- Does working from home reduce an organization’s environmental footprint?
While these questions appear to have easy answers, it all depends on whom you ask. Things are not really as straightforward as they seem. For companies such as Square, Facebook, and Twitter, which embraced an entirely remote workforce in the wake of the pandemic, the answer to both questions is “Yes.” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, believes that this move could have a positive impact on the environment.
However, there are others who share a different opinion. Yes, transitioning to remote work will drastically reduce gas emissions gotten from commuting to the office. Still, what about the environmental impact of several AC units now being used by hundreds of workers in their various houses at the same time? Is working from home truly better for the earth and her children?
As is now apparent, there are several factors to consider before coming to a conclusion.
It’s Not So Easy to Measure
Ascertaining whether remote work produces fewer emissions than commuting isn’t quite easy. Shopify’s Sustainability Fund director, Stacy Kauk, points out that they aim to redesign the company’s physical workspace to “reflect a digital-by-default mindset.” To put this simply, Shopify intends to significantly reduce its office footprint as more employees work from home and less commute to the office.
Yes, as the company reduces its use of physical offices, they’ll drastically cut down on the energy usage needed to power appliances, electronics, and lights in the building. This gives the impression that going remote will shrink the organization’s environmental footprint. However, this begs the question: What about the 5,000 employees now working from different locations, with each one producing varying emissions from their home offices?
When this is put into consideration, going remote doesn’t look so green anymore. A company’s footprint appears to look the same or increase as emissions move from a few office spaces to thousands of homes across the world. So, which is better?
It’s clear at this point that it’s not an easy task measuring whether remote work is better for the environment than commuting. There are many shifting factors to consider. However, since working from home is here to stay, it’s essential to understand how having a remote team could affect your company’s sustainability goals.
As Josh Bersin, an industry analyst and HR expert, points out, “It went from something like 40% of employees were allowed to work at home (before the pandemic) to somewhere around 60 to 70% now are working at home or working at home some of the time.” This shows how COVID-19 has impacted our work culture.
However, Shopify sees this new change as an opportunity to really understand how office-based emissions differ from remote work’s environmental impact. They plan to conduct experiments, document reports and then compare results to see if there’s a change in the environmental footprint. However, the challenge is finding accurate ways to measure these differences. How can you objectively ascertain whether remote work will reduce your company’s effect on the environment?
New Workspace, New Footprint
For companies like Shopify that have personnel working from different locations outside the organization’s central office, this means an increased number of workspaces. Employees now have their various home offices with different energy grids, heating systems, and computing powers. In addition, in most cases, they are also independent of the company when making their environmental decisions. So, does a remote team increase or decrease a business’s environmental footprint?
According to a study conducted by IOPscience, reviewing 39 studies about the impact of telecommuting on the environment, the results depend on the factors being measured. Twenty-six of the studies agree that having a remote workforce reduces energy usage, and only eight of them suggest that it could increase or have the same effect on energy consumption. This variation in the results had to do with the factors that were included or excluded. For example, some of the studies focused on calculating energy consumption per person, while others paid more attention to a percentage of the population.
In addition, most of the experiments focused on a narrow range of factors, such as commute emissions, because these are easier to measure. However, by focusing on one or two aspects only, they end up not documenting the impact of other elements on the environment. This also means that certain factors, such as office buildings having more advanced energy management systems than most homes, may not be considered in these studies.
When calculating emissions, most companies fail to include emissions resulting from remote work. This often gives an inaccurate estimation of the environmental risk an organization poses and incorrectly recognizes the footprint it leaves behind. The impact of numerous employees running multiple air conditioners and computers in their various homes needs to be considered.
To ensure the reduction of emissions as companies transition to having a remote workforce, Arcadia, a renewable energy platform, offers a sustainability solution. Organizations can now tap into their clean energy offer for an added work-from-home benefit. You can even use this opportunity to subsidize your employees’ monthly bills. It’s a win-win: you reduce your environmental footprint while ensuring the happiness of your team.
When all is said and done, managing a remote workforce offers you lots of opportunities to build on your company’s sustainability goals.
How Remote Work Will Benefit the Environment
So, the golden question remains: “Is remote work preferable in the long term for your company’s sustainability initiatives?”
Since remote work happens in a virtual world, you don’t need so much office space anymore. This reduces both power consumption and waste generation. To take your sustainability further, you can provide your employees with renewable energy to further diminish your company’s environmental footprint.
As employees take the bus or train or drive their cars to and from work every day, this fills the environment with greenhouse gases. An estimated 3.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases are generated each year as employees try to get to the office and then go home each day.
By keeping your staff remote, you reduce the impact your business has on Mother Nature. They’ll spend less time moving around in cars, thereby mitigating their footprint on the environment.
Zero Paper Waste
One of the most significant advantages of going virtual is the reduced dependence on paper materials. Your company can now use tools such as electronic signatures, digital management systems, and time tracking apps that generate zero paper waste.
By running a paperless business model, you reduce ink usage as well. This makes your company a tree-friendly business – after all, thousands of trees are destroyed regularly for paper manufacturing. By going remote, you save the trees, reduce carbon in the atmosphere, and contribute to clean air.
Measuring the difference between office and remote work footprints isn’t as easy as it may seem. However, there is no denying the tremendous benefits of having a remote team for your business and sustainability goals.
By focusing on your sustainability initiatives, you’ll find out that there are more ways than one to help the environment, grow your business, and increase customer and employee loyalty. Remote work gives you that extra advantage.