Since 2020 in response to the global pandemic, remote work has revolutionized the way many people work – from commutes and business casual to home offices at the dining room table and sweatpants. Prior to 2020, only a small percentage of the population was working remotely, but with the emergence of COVID-19, by mid-2022 over 35 percent of the population is remote and almost 80 percent of that population plans to stay remote.
With fewer cars on the road during rush hours and fewer people in communal office spaces, it might seem like a win for the environment, but remote work is creating an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting nightmare for companies.
Remote work presents new challenges of how best to observe, measure, and influence behaviors that matter for sustainability reporting. Are companies able to report on employees’ home offices? Are employees doing their best to ensure that their work-from-home setup is sustainable? How should a company account for remote work in regards to their sustainability data management?
Additionally, new evidence suggests that remote work is not as good for the environment as many people want to believe. While a company’s office emissions reduce and commutes are shorter or non-existent, employees are still using energy and producing waste at home. Monitoring environmental impact and implementing sustainability initiatives with a remote workforce is becoming a new challenge.
While it might not be possible to successfully measure ESG data across every individual employee’s home, companies can still do their part in encouraging work-from-home sustainability.
Sustainability From Home
While it is easier to enforce sustainability practices in a shared office space, it becomes much more difficult when employees are spread out across a larger area. Energy management for office buildings is generally more sophisticated than that of individual houses. That paired with energy usage across multiple houses is shown to have an increased use of fossil fuels, and therefore a potentially larger carbon footprint.
Encouraging employees to have a strong focus on sustainability while at home can help to combat this issue.
- Encourage green activities at home. Activities such as recycling, turning up the air conditioner or down the heat, or not printing documents if not necessary can help to cut down on the carbon footprint.
- Create sustainability guidelines. Enforcing these guidelines as much as possible from the top down will help encourage employees to be more proactive with their home office choices.
- Provide incentives for sustainable practices. Giving employees a reason to better practice sustainability in their homes could lead to greater results.
Measure and Report
A sustainability plan should be put in place and updated frequently. This can be done by comparing practices to your competitors or peers, benchmarking against the industry averages, and determining mandatory and voluntary disclosure requirements.
Understand where the current reporting gaps are and what you can do to close those gaps. Through this process, you can establish what data is required from both an in-office and remote standpoint.
You can calculate your company’s carbon footprint by evaluating emissions associated with energy used in buildings, business operations and emissions from your supply chain. Once you’ve identified high-impact areas, you can focus on them to begin reducing emissions, and even purchase carbon offsets, to limit your impact from areas that are more within your control.
Capturing information from remote employees can be a little more difficult. While reporting emissions from work-from-home employees is not exactly foolproof, it is not completely impossible with the right sustainability software. Some areas that data is easier to capture are where they are working, whether they are fully remote or hybrid, and what their travel habits are. From there, you can begin to calculate the emissions associated with remote and hybrid work.
Current carbon reporting protocol requires companies to continue reporting their operational emissions from facilities in Scopes 1 and 2 and include their employees’ work-from-home emissions as Scope 3. Built into Scope 5 are emissions factors provided by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), based on the methodology in this white paper, which calculate emissions based on total hours of full-time employees working remotely. These factors are most accurate for the UK region, however this methodology can be applied to other regional averages applicable to the locations of your employees to increase accuracy of this calculation.
Interested in tracking your employees’ work-from-home emissions? Reach out to Scope 5 today!