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The future of sustainability in a world of remote working


Victoria Usher

Published On:

February 2, 2021

Published In:

Industry Innovation | Industry News | Sustainability | Technology Insights

The future of sustainability in a world of remote working

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to cut emissions in the UK by 68% before 2030, a world-leading aim in the battle against climate change. To meet this target, both the Government and businesses must take action now – but what are the first steps toward incremental progress?

Despite the disruption caused by Covid-19 in our day-to-day lives, its impact also produced some inspiring environmental changes across the globe. In 2020, Venice’s famous canals experienced a phenomenal improvement in water clarity, while solar panels in Germany produced record-breaking amounts of electricity, thanks to clearer, less polluted skies. Shortly after, images reached the press showing the Himalayas were visible in India for the first time in a generation. The impact of human activity has never been more apparent, but these incidents demonstrate there are measures we can take to create real change and reverse the status quo.

At GingerMay, we believe small swaps and decisions can result in lasting environmental benefits, as we’ve discussed previously. For example, to offset the emissions produced by international business travel, we engage with the Mossy Earth initiative. This project provides companies with a carbon footprint calculator, which allows them to understand their impact on the environment and mitigate their footprint through tackling issues such as deforestation. As travel restrictions ease in the future, these initiatives should be top of mind for business leaders.

While a 68% reduction in emissions may sound daunting, now is a crucial time to implement change and dial up sustainability efforts. The world of work as we know it has already evolved in unforeseen ways, so as our lifestyles continue to adapt to our current situation, what positive action can businesses and employees take for the greener good?

Sustainable supplies for the home office

Home office equipment sales have seen a notable uptick due to the nationwide lockdowns and needs of remote working; approximately 53% of workers have purchased office equipment since Q1 2020. Of these, desk chairs rank as the most popular product (21%) and electronic accessories (15%), such as printers and keyboards, come a close second. Although this equipment is essential for the productivity and comfort of remote workers, consumers should stay conscious of product life cycles.

Across the globe, around 50 million tonnes of electronic goods are thrown away on a yearly basis, despite almost 100% of it being recyclable. There are accessible sustainability initiatives, however, that collect these products for reuse and recycling. Organisations such as First Mile are dedicated to enabling companies’ sustainability with waste collection initiatives. By considering product life cycles and making greener choices from the start – for instance prioritising renewable natural resources such as bamboo-based stationery or purchasing reusable smart notebooks – employers and employees can hugely reduce their environmental impact.

The rise of mixed working

Alongside office supplies, the issues of energy sources and carbon emissions are paramount to advancing businesses’ sustainability. There have been many conversations around the continuation of remote and mixed working, even after ‘normality’ returns. According to the Office for National Statistics, 1.7 million people in the UK worked from home before the pandemic, but this figure increased to an estimated 20 million during the first lockdown. As a result, motor traffic fell by 73% when compared to pre-outbreak levels. Not only does mixed working minimise commuters’ greenhouse emissions, but it also changes businesses’ demands on heating and electricity.

Companies have transitioned from powering centralised office spaces to functioning from a broad variety of smaller homes – in dozens of locations. Research has surfaced to suggest that increasing remote working capabilities won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution to reducing work-related emissions and enhancing energy efficiency. Different heating systems, energy grids, and employee lifestyles will affect how businesses approach green initiatives, but adaptability is key to maximising their effectiveness. During colder times of the year, for example, it’s more efficient to heat one building than multiple homes. To achieve optimal reductions in their carbon footprints, employers should consider locations and climates when looking to offer a flexible pattern of office-based and remote working.

Treat environmental results like business performance

While green solutions to businesses’ energy needs are more complex than the Mossy Earth calculator, it is vital for leaders to quantify environmental impact. From heating workspaces to the products consumed, employers have a responsibility to monitor and refine their processes to be more eco-friendly. Advancements in cleantech and envirotech are offering companies the means to set reduction targets and access renewable energy providers.

By streamlining the analysis of environmental impact and the results of business decisions, envirotech is transforming the process of becoming greener. With a view of progress in real time, companies can track their impact the same way as they would business performance. Adopting this mentality and working with innovative envirotech providers are strong steps toward mitigating carbon footprints, as well as making sustainability a key element of business strategy.

As the world of work continues to change, it’s crucial to prioritise sustainability. Businesses must take stock of their operations and energy needs, and place a greater focus on how they impact the environment – making this a core part of their company culture. The resources needed to do this are rapidly gaining traction, and with the global eye now on building a sustainable future, now is the perfect time to change for the greener good.

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