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The widespread adoption of hybrid working will help companies meet their ESG targets – not least by reducing carbon emissions from commuting and cutting office energy consumption.
Imagine a future where everyone walked or cycled to work and cities had no rush hours. It might sound utopian, but the mass adoption of hybrid working, which sees employees able to work from home, a local flexspace and occasionally a central HQ, is actually contributing to this reality. What’s more, it’s reducing our impact on the planet – a trend Regus parent company IWG is calling the ‘green dividend’.
As we look to the future, companies are increasingly realising that hybrid working can significantly reduce their overall carbon footprint. According to Global Workplace Analytics, if all US residents who could and wanted to work from home started doing so for half the week, it would be the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce off the road.
“Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and more than half come from personal vehicles,” stated a report in The Guardian. “Close to 90% of people drive to work – usually alone – and the daily back and forth accounts for nearly 30% of the miles American workers drive in a year. Doing away with millions of workers’ daily commutes seems like an easy climate win. Carbon dioxide emissions from transportation dropped 15% [in 2020] as people hunkered down at home.”
Reduced commuting to a central office not only means fewer cars on the roads but also allows organisations to downsize their city-centre HQ and incorporate shared flexspace into their real estate portfolio, which has the added benefit of reduced energy consumption. (It’s also better than working from home all the time, which contributes to higher gas and electric bills for individuals.)
“There is no doubt that sustainability is now very much front of mind for companies around the world – and they know this is something their customers expect,” says Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO of IWG. “At IWG, we believe that the adoption of a hybrid working model can be a major pillar in any company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda. And it can also be the foundation of a new approach to work and life that benefits both the planet and its people.”
However, businesses can’t assume that simply advocating flexible working will be enough to help combat the climate crisis. ESG efforts need to be wholesale and well thought through for the long term with clear-cut targets. As Dr Torik Holmes from the University of Manchester says: “Given that this hybrid model is still in utero, now is the time to make sure that sustainability implications are carefully considered and addressed by those making decisions around office working. We call on these decision-makers to place sustainability front and centre of hybrid working models, alongside the principles of productivity, flexibility and wellbeing that are already being discussed.”
Cleaner air is not the only sustainability benefit that comes from hybrid working. In fact, it can play a major role in supporting a number of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, allowing businesses to easily achieve substantial green dividends in areas such as sustainable cities and communities, clean energy and climate action, gender equality and good health.
Green dividends is one of ten trends identified in IWG’s white paper, The Future of Work: a trends forecast for 2022.
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