A calculator developed by Watershed Technology Inc. revealed how moving to a fully remote or hybrid work model can reduce a company’s carbon emissions, but may have an adverse impact on a single employee’s footprint.
On the surface, less cars on the road and energy usage in office spaces seems like a great move to becoming more sustainable. But the reality is that emissions are shifted away from company offices and towards employees’ homes.
As businesses become more accepting of remote and hybrid arrangements, data has come out about the positive impact that reduced commutes could have on the planet.
However, this does not take into account where new remote employees have moved to in the past year, like the suburbs. For instance, a distributed team may lead to more trips for in-person meetings, which could increase the number of miles a person has to drive or fly.
“If this remote-work world encourages more people to move out of the urban core and into the suburbs, it may look like emissions for the company are going down, because commutes are going down,” said Taylor Francis, cofounder and president of Watershed. “But the actual total carbon in the world is going up.”
So if companies want to truly want to create a green workforce, they will need to take into account how workers can reduce their footprint when outside of the physical workplace, but still on the clock. This means offering subsidies for public transit, limiting flights for company-wide meetings and purchasing carbon offsets for employees’ homes.