Work from home has become the new normal since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Worldwide, firms experience an increasing number of employees working remotely, leading companies to measure their offices' carbon footprint and work from home's environmental impact. With more and more global companies like Spotify, Salesforce, Goldman Sachs and Twitter announcing that their employees could choose to be fully remote forever, we might ask how companies can calculate the carbon footprint of work from home?
What is the environmental impact of work from home?
The environmental impact of work from home is more nuanced than it seems. Numerous studies have acclaimed work from home for its environmental benefits while cutting companies' overall carbon footprint: decreasing carbon emissions resulting from commuting to reducing notable office waste. In fact, one study found that 98% of an employee carbon footprint comes from commuting. Unfortunately, because of the rigidity of conventional working hours, commuters are often stuck in traffic jams accounting for millions of tons of wasted greenhouse gases.
In 2012, pioneer companies like Dell, Xerox and Aetna launched their telecommuting programs to reduce their environmental impact. These pre-pandemic trials had promising results: in 2014, Xerox launched the Virtual Workforce Program, with more than 8,000 Xerox employees (11 per cent of its workforce) working from home full time. Through telecommuting, Xerox reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 40,894 metric tons, and its remote staff used 4.6 million fewer gallons of gas by not commuting. On the other hand, Dell’s remote work program reduced its GHG emissions by 6,700 metric tons or the equivalent of not driving 16 million miles.
Many characters think that work from home is the best option to reduce carbon emissions, but it is more complex in reality. Remote work displaces carbon emissions from the office to employee's homes. In the U.K., one analysis found that remote work has a higher carbon footprint during winter since heating individual homes are less efficient than heating an office. That is why companies need to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of remote work alongside their offices.
This calculator tells you what your company's carbon footprint for remote work is.
Plan A is a Berlin-based startup that offers tools to companies like Société Générale and GANNI to assess their carbon footprint more holistically and decarbonize their activities with reduction plans. Plan A's mission is to "help companies build a carbon-neutral and sustainable economy". As telecommuting is part of our daily lives, the company has developed a new work from home feature to help companies measure and reduce workplace and remote work's carbon emissions.
"While work from home reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions, there will still be induced emissions due to excess energy consumed at home," explains Dr Ramana Gudipudi, decarbonization lead at Plan A. "Our calculator enables you to calculate that while stating how to find creative ways to reduce these emissions".
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