Engaging Remote Workforces
Are Employers Responsible for Remote Worker CO2 Emissions?
The GHG Protocol's Scope 3 definition includes a specific category for employee commuting as well as energy, IT equipment purchased and used within the office. There is also an optional definition for 'teleworkers' defined in Scope 3 Category 7 "Employee Commuting"
Related: Find out more about the GHG Scopes in this article.
In today’s environment, especially when companies are required under Scope 2 to consider the energy used by their customers in using their products or services, these seems a bit of a shortcoming.
There is speculation that the scopes will be updated to reflect the recent work-from-home (WFH) shifts, but until that comes, many companies are already accounting for WFH remote energy consumption alongside associated reductions in office energy requirements.
Of course, B-Corp certification is already tougher in this regard, stipulating that companies should declare energy consumption of remote teams. You can find out more about this in my interview with sustainable business pioneer Tom Greenwood, here.
Beyond Carbon, Employee Engagement and Eco-Anxiety
In addition to Scope3/B-Corp obligations for accounting for remote employee's carbon emissions, there are other reasons why employers should be looking to engage staff in this discussion.
First, during the ongoing energy crisis many employees could be struggling to balance energy prices with comfortable, productive working conditions. Engaging staff in the discussion around at-home energy use could help highlight those in need of support, while also building a more holistic view of the company's carbon footprint.
Second, there is a nascent and worrying mental-health topic to pay attention to – eco-anxiety.
Eco-Anxiety and the Distributed Workforce
This is an area of carbon accounting that could have an unexpected positive social impact, and also an excellent example of how our global challenges are often inter-related.
A report from Grist highlighted that the search trends for climate anxiety grew by more than 565% between 2020 and 2021 compared to the 16 years before. Following that, the Smithsonian Magazine wrote in May '22 about a large-scale study into the topic, which identified climate anxiety as an area of growing concern, especially in younger generations.
Extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment caused by human activity and climate change.
Eco-anxiety comes about because of the enormous scale and existential impact of the climate crisis coupled with a perceived lack of progress that our civilisation seems to be making.
While much of this may be true, often an individual's perception is heavily influenced by doom-mongering media outlets.
As readers of this website will know, there are reasons to be optimistic, and there are things we can all do to make a difference.
In line with this, the Smithsonian study identified that a significant part of the solution is to allow people to come together, share their concerns and to feel empowered to make changes as part of a solution bigger than themselves.
This is where taking a proactive approach to remote worker digital carbon footprints can find unexpected synergy with workforce mental wellbeing.
At an individual level, the actions we can take to address our digital carbon footprints often have fairly small impact in their own right, even though their cumulative impact can be much more significant. Due to that, these actions are often relatively easy to implement and adopt - turning down screen brightness, turning things off instead of leaving them on stand-by, reducing video usage (you'll find a lot more in my Exploring Digital Carbon Footprint report)
Because of the ease of access of these small, yet cumulatively significant impacts, they can help employees find easy first, or incremental next steps on the path to a more impactful, sustainable future.
Engaging the remote workforce in discussion around digital carbon footprints can not only help organisations better understand, manage and communicate their carbon footprints, but can also provide other employee-support opportunities.
Building communities around small, incremental actions to reduce Digital carbon footprints can help workers feel connected and empowered, help them take incremental steps towards more sustainable activities and provide a pathway out of debilitating anxiety and worry that comes from the enormity of the climate challenge we all face.