How To Give Remote Employees What They Need—And Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
October 21, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold, what’s happening to your company’s carbon footprint?
Maybe that question isn’t top of mind during this challenging time. But the global menace of climate change will persist even after the global menace of the pandemic is under control, and businesses may find helpful lessons to take from one crisis to the other.
For many businesses, the pandemic has accelerated an existing trend of more employees working from home. (Many workers prefer working from home—if they’re not confined there.) Having more employees working from home can result in a lasting carbon footprint reduction. Organizations with more remote workers:
● Are less likely to need new offices or facilities when they expand. That means less carbon-intensive construction, heating, cooling or electricity usage.
● Are less likely to be stuck with vacant energy-consuming space when needs change.
● Will have fewer employees who need to commute. Transportation accounts for 29% of U.S. energy use, and nearly 60% of those emissions come from cars. So a reduction in commuting can take a big bite out of emissions.
But the opportunities don’t end there. Your company’s carbon footprint hasn’t just shrunk—it’s also dispersed, as activities that used to happen at your office (heating, cooling, lighting, printing, etc.) are now happening at home. As you consider all the ways to support your home-based workers, keep in mind that this is also a golden opportunity to reduce that footprint.
Promoting Green Offices
For starters, your employees now have a greater incentive to help your company achieve its environmental goals. After all, they’re paying for electricity and climate control at their home offices. When they reduce their energy use, it helps their own bottom lines as well as the environment.
Now might be a good time to suggest a home energy audit, which can identify ways that a home-based worker can save energy and make a home office more comfortable. Some companies perform such audits for free; many utilities offer free or discounted audits and rebates for fixes such as adding insulation.
When it comes to home office furnishings or supplies, your company may or may not subsidize employee purchases. Either way, you can encourage workers to make decisions that can save energy or resources as well as money. Here are just a few examples:
Printing: Many workers have developed habits that result in far too much paper and ink usage. Fortunately, there are apps that save on both resources by removing large graphics and other extraneous material from printouts. You can encourage eco-friendly practices such as double-sided or duplex printing. You can also encourage employees to use recycled paper and remanufactured ink cartridges or printer ink refills that cost less and save resources.
Furniture: Buy (or encourage employees to buy) home office furniture that is long-lasting or made from sustainable materials. There are many ways employees can donate or recycle furniture at its end of life.
Other supplies: From CFL light bulbs to refillable pens to nontoxic cleaning supplies, there are plenty of lower-carbon or eco-conscious options. Sometimes they are also cheaper or better-performing than their less-green alternatives. To learn more, check out Office Depot’s Greener Office.
Reporting Your Progress
In recent years, hundreds of American companies have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions. The pandemic-induced downturn in economic activity will allow them to declare progress toward their emissions targets, if for the worst possible reason. But the pandemic is also accelerating a shift to working from home that may persist long after the pandemic’s end.
If the shift to work-from-home leads your company to require fewer or smaller facilities, that will likely have an immediate impact on progress toward the emissions targets that many companies report. The related reductions in commuting and the increase in telework may also affect your reported emissions numbers, because more companies are reporting these indirect (or “Scope 3”) emissions.
Ultimately, helping your work-from-home employees reduce their environmental impact is a win-win for employer and employee alike. It’s a clear demonstration that management and employees can work together to fight climate change.
Published in partnership with Forbes
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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