The Green Corridor: The Emissions of Work – How to Make a Green Working Culture

The Green Corridor:

The Emissions of Work – How to Make a Green Working Culture

by Timothy Foote, Founder of Susymbio

In this month’s Green Corridor, I wanted to talk about the emissions generated by a workforce physically going to work. In working out the carbon footprint of businesses that I have dealings with, there is always a section in Scope 3 emissions for the staff getting to work. For businesses, the added activity of driving across town or flying out to visit clients creates even larger amounts of emissions.

When we as individuals are going to and from work, we experience physically, the emitting of greenhouse gasses by our transportation sector. We can see the exhaust coming out of tailpipes from cars and trucks. We can hear the jet engines overhead. We can smell the pollution while walking near our busy roadways (sometimes covering our faces). We can touch it when wiping soot from our eyes and skin.

So what if everything was different? What if technology came into the picture that allowed for far less moving about in fossil fuel burning transport? The recent pandemic offered a historic opportunity to see what a dramatic change in workspace cultures could have for our planet.

Researchers at University of Warwick, U.K. were able to take the emission numbers from pre-COVID 2019 (over 17.4 million tons of Green House Gas) and compare them to the emissions when work at home became the norm in 2020. Not surprisingly, the reduction to emissions generated was tremendous. For two  IT companies in the Warwick study, commuter emissions were actually reduced up to 97% during 2020 when most staff members were forced to work from home.

Even when it has been proven that productivity and worker output was not impacted by where people worked, there are bosses that want people to get back to the office. Why?

 

The mind-set challenge for all businesses today is to recognize the following:

      1. That commuter and business travel miles are a significant source of planet damaging green house gas emissions.
      2. There are work life balance advantages to working remotely.
      3. Working remotely was proven to be as productive as working in offices thanks to the remote working technology in place today.
      4. There are cost savings when office space is reduced as a result of staff working remotely.

 

Many jobs require people to be at their workplace. In the US for example, it is estimated that 57% of the workforce is considered as “front-line” meaning that they would need to commute a fairly significant amount, with little opportunity to use technology in order to work remotely.

 

In these situations, some interventions by companies that want to reduce commuter and business travel carbon emissions could be:

      1. Continue to keep air business travel to a minimum and track it closely
      2. Keep remote working as part of your business culture and continue to explore ways in which this could more widely implemented or adopted
      3. Stagger work hours to help avoid having employees stuck in traffic congestion. This reduces emissions and unnecessary stress.
      4. For sales staff that travel to clients – lease or rent electric transport instead of vehicles with internal combustion engines wherever possible either for your employees directly or for car services you are using
      5. Incentivise public transport use amongst staff to reduce commuting emissions

 

Working in offices for set hours is not an activity that has been around for thousands of years. Only early industrialization made set hours for work a standard for efficient manufacturing.

 

We have an opportunity now to reset what will be the working culture for our post-industrial workforces. Let’s make sure the reduction of emissions is primary to what work culture we make going forward.

About the Author:

Tim Foote runs Susymbio, a boutique consulting firm advising on e-commerce logistics solutions and sustainability program management services. Tim has held various positions with MNCs, gaining a wide knowledge and expertise in logistics operations. He crafted delivery solutions for e-commerce clients and managed supply chains for several chemical and freight forwarding companies. At DHL eCommerce’s first Asia Pacific Head of Go Green, he put in place carbon footprint management, sustainability training, illegal wildlife smuggling monitoring training, and employee engagement. Tim volunteers his free-time with the Singapore Wildcat Action Group, a not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness and funds for wildlife conservation.

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