Carbon footprint of homeworking


The carbon footprint of homeworking can easily be overlooked when measuring a company’s environment impact.

But homeworking, from an environmental reporting perspective, presents a unique challenge as little or no specific data is available on which to base the calculation of remote workers.

There are significant variances in the approach to calculating and reporting these emissions and so EcoAct, in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest Group, has produced a guide to measuring carbon footprint of homeworking to provide a standardised approach to facilitate fair comparison and transparency.

Companies will be demonstrating a reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions performance in line with the reduction of office building energy consumption. Disclosure of these emissions is now common practice due to a mix of compliance schemes and as part of many company’s public commitments in this area.

However, despite the reduction, these emissions have not been eliminated, rather they have been relocated to employee homes beyond the company’s direct control. Some might argue that the decrease in commuting related emissions makes up for this, but it is difficult to claim this without first accounting for all of your company’s operations, including those from homeworkers.

The EcoAct guide considers the following main emissions areas: office equipment, heating and lighting energy, cooling energy, working hours & days.

Most large companies choose to disclose emissions in line with the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol standards. The Protocol notes that more than 9 in 10 Fortune 500 companies choose to report to CDP using their standard. Under the GHG protocol, homeworking is currently an optional disclosure covered in the Employee Commuting (Category 7) section.

In the past, most reporting companies have chosen not to disclose homeworking emissions in this manner due to difficulties in sourcing data on which to base emissions calculations and a previously justifiable assumption that this would not be as material as other elements. It will be difficult to maintain this assertion without due process, following the significant shift to homeworking that has occurred for many in 2020.

Additionally, whilst the GHG protocol notes where to disclose these emissions, it does not provide a methodology for this quantification. EcoAct’s methodology seeks to support the GHG protocol by providing a standard approach which businesses can cite in their disclosures around Category 6  – ‘Companies may include emissions from teleworking (i.e., employees working remotely) in this category.’

Once homeworking emissions data has been determined there are several ways to reduce emissions, including: providing energy efficiency training for colleagues and/or personal carbon footprint analysis and advice; encouraging colleagues to move to LEDs, possibly through subsidised schemes; purchasing renewable energy certificates equivalent to estimated electricity and thermal energy purchases; encouraging colleagues to switch to renewable energy tariffs for their home energy; investing in energy efficient technology for colleagues working from home that could involve setting green procurement requirements for all new laptops, monitors and other technology, and incentivising colleagues to move to more energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

We’re facing a fundamental shift in how we do business and with the growing attention on companies to address climate change across their full value chains, it is anticipated that corporates will be expected to fully and robustly account for the impacts of increased homeworking.

It is vitally important that we don’t ignore what is potentially a significant emissions source for many companies, and in so doing, undermine any climate progress being made.

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