Sustainability is a term that comes up a lot these days, and for good reason. It’s more important than ever to be aware of environmental issues and the steps people and organizations alike can take to protect the planet.
Just as individuals are making changes at home to be more environmentally friendly, corporations are taking big steps forward, too. One of the most significant sustainability measures in recent years may not even seem directly related to the environment—remote work.
What impact does remote work actually have on the environment? What other measures can companies take to further their sustainability efforts? Here’s what you need to know about this development in ecological awareness.
Remote work’s environmental impact
The world’s largest environmental issues cannot be solved with one single change, but the shift toward remote work has still been a tremendous step forward in addressing them. Specifically, remote work has led to several environmental benefits.
Lower power consumption
Offices require a significant amount of energy consumption to be a suitable place for employees to work. They need heating and cooling, lights, computers, and other electronic office equipment, all of which consume lots of power. A remote working structure changes that.
The World Economic Forum reports that working from home saves energy by reducing office energy consumption. When employees work from home, their personal energy consumption goes up, but the overall power consumption goes down. Workers using their home energy sources may be more inclined to employ power-saving habits, like unplugging unused appliances, using LED lights, and reducing HVAC use.
How much energy a work-from-home policy will save depends on several factors, including whether employees work from home full-time or in a hybrid structure.
Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
A remote work policy is more than just something employees expect in 2022. Not only does it remove the headache of daily commuting, it’s also a strong measure for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gas emissions have long been the target of environmental activists since they trap heat in the atmosphere, and driving is one of the biggest sources of global emissions. When employees work from home, they don’t have to commute and produce these emissions by using fossil fuels.
Research has found that the shift toward remote work reduced greenhouse gas emissions from commuting by 43% in 2019 and a whopping 97% in 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels. Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions like these show the power of remote work as a sustainability effort.
Better air quality
With fewer greenhouse gasses and other emissions in the air from commuting, remote work has led to better air quality. By tracking traffic-related air pollution, researchers have found that air pollution has remained below pre-lockdown levels in several major U.S. cities, like New York City and Los Angeles.
Remote work policies can make this improved air quality the new normal, leading to easier breathing for everyone.
Less paper use
The nature of remote work requires companies to move toward a more digital workplace. As companies digitize documents and start using more online processes, they greatly reduce their paper consumption.
Operating digitally has its challenges, like the need for extra work-from-home allowances to cover equipment upgrades, but its impact on paper use is undeniably positive. Less paper consumption means less paper production, saving trees and reducing both waste and carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing.
How companies can help
Operating a remote or hybrid work environment can positively affect the environment, but how else can companies create a more sustainable work environment? A few popular options include:
- Supporting green vendors
- Going paperless
- Encouraging recycling
- Establishing sustainability policies
- Instituting green volunteer programs
Any company looking to foster sustainability in the workplace should start by defining its sustainability goals. To do so, you must consider the needs of your local community and the planet in addition to the needs of your organization.
It’s also important to get everyone in your organization involved and on the same page about your new sustainable business practices. The employees and leaders in your company should understand how your business defines sustainability, what the company’s goals are, and what role they have to play in achieving those goals.
If sustainability is something your company wants to focus on, consider adopting a remote work or hybrid work policy to take advantage of the environmental benefits listed above.
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