Hybrid work and net-zero goals: 5 companies leading the change and an actionable checklist for founders
In the midst of global crises, spikes in energy prices, and cycles of the pandemic, only one thing appears to be constant — climate change. As time goes by, the scientific community is more alarmed at the threats humanity is facing (and ignoring).
The last report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) takes a peek at the planet’s bleak future. Droughts, high-intensity heat waves, wildlife extinction, and other threats are going to be part of our future unless we take immediate action.
While a lot of climate change action has to be implemented on a large scale, with governments pushing the envelope, a positive shift starts at individual and organizational levels. In this post, we will take a look at how sustainability and net-zero goals can become part of a hybrid work infrastructure.
Hybrid work is a starting point for achieving net-zero
Mobility constraints brought forth by the pandemic allowed scientists to see to which degree transportation is responsible for carbon emissions.
The contribution turned out to be significant since aviation and commute reductions led to a 5.4% drop in carbon emissions. Thus, by enabling work from home team leaders drastically reduce emissions per employee.
However, it’s worth pointing out that long-term work from home arrangements can significantly increase CO2 emissions as it’s harder for employees to access renewable energy than it is for office managers on an organization-wide scale.
Thus, hybrid work emerges as the middle ground for achieving net-zero operations. Reducing commutes will mitigate the strain of clogged highways whereas keeping part of the operations in-office will make sure employees don’t have to single-handedly carry the burden of energy use.
5 examples of net-zero hybrid workplaces
As governments become less lenient towards carbon emissions and carbon taxes in countries like Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway are over $100 dollars per metric ton of carbon dioxide, large-scale organizations become motivated to reach net-zero goals.
In fact, more organizations are announcing having reached net-zero emissions. Let’s examine which policies they implemented to improve operational sustainability.
In September 2021, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce announced that the company has achieved net-zero across its value chain. He implemented three key organization-wide policies:
- Public commitment to a shared goal of not allowing global warming to cross the 1.5 degree mark.
- Building an infrastructure (Sustainability Cloud) to cut the emissions associated with the company’s value chain in half.
- Compensate for remaining emissions by introducing renewable energy sources (wind and solar).
After the pandemic, Salesforce is committed to a hybrid workplace — the team believes that this decision will cut carbon emissions per employee by 29%. To effectively track emissions produced by remote teams, the company uses monitoring systems and algorithms.
Coca-Cola is another company that is equally committed to hybrid work and net-zero operations. Given its massive production pipeline, eliminating carbon emissions takes decades of work. To that end, the company announced the “Net Zero by 2040” strategy that will procedurally eradicate the strain manufacturing puts on the environment.
As part of this plan, the company is ready to:
- Invest 250 million euros in emission reduction projects by 2025
- Switch to renewable energy sources and explore energy efficiency solutions.
- Use recyclable materials for packaging, exploring refillable and packageless products.
- Support customers with eco-friendly coolers
- Monitor carbon emissions within the team.
IBM is among the frontrunners in hybrid work adoption. The company’s CEO told in a Bloomberg interview that he expects 80% of employees to commit to a hybrid schedule for “at least three days a week”.
At the same time, the company is signaling a stead commitment to sustainability and net zero operations. IBM’s approach to reducing carbon emissions lies in technology adoption — here are the innovations they are betting on:
- Hybrid cloud
- Industrial Internet of Things
- Data analytics
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence
Deloitte is another market frontrunner transitioning to hybrid work. As a part of the company’s commitment to sustainable, net-zero workplaces, a series of organizational changes are on the agenda:
- Cutting business travel emissions by 50%
- Committing to renewable energy for office buildings
- Substituting all cars in the company’s fleet with electric vehicles
- Collaborating with eco-friendly suppliers.
Hitachi announced its net-zero strategy in September last year. A few months earlier, the company also came forward with the decision to scale down its office spaces by introducing purpose-based workflows.
The two initiatives appear to align well since reducing office-based CO2 emissions and investing in automation tools and technologies contribute to overal sustainability.
Other practices the organization is proposing are:
- Using energy-saving and energy-efficient equipment and technologies
- Ensure the use of 100% non-fossil electricity
- Building products that are sustainable by design
- Work with decarbonization-friendly suppliers
A checklist for a net-zero hybrid workplace
Across all markets (finance, technology, food and beverages, and more), market frontrunners manage to successfully align sustainability initiative with hybrid work policies. The leaders of smaller-scale teams can follow in their footsteps and build processes that are both flexible and sustainable.
Here’s an actionable checklist for building a net-zero hybrid workplace:
Setting up remote workspaces
- Allowing employees to have flexible working hours so that they could commute less or choose the time with less traffic, thereby reducing highway congestion.
- Enabling teams with energy-efficient equipment and resource-efficient collaboration tools to eliminate waste.
- Using emission monitoring tools to transparently calculate emissions per employee
Streamlining office spaces
- Giving up unused spaces to slash resource inefficiencies
- Investing in renewable energy sources
- Opting for spaces with larger windows to make the most out of daytime sunlight
- Investing in energy-efficient HVAC and ventilation systems
- Substituting all vehicles the company uses for electric devices
- Collaborating with suppliers or technology vendors with a net-zero policy
- Digitizing paper-based processes
- Communicating net-zero commitments in marketing and PR materials
- Keeping employees informed and accountable about fostering net-zero innovation
Carbon emissions are one of the key drivers of global warming and climate change. At the moment, governments and businesses are exploring ways to counter and reverse climate change — however, there isn’t enough action to deter the upcoming catastrophe.
To preserve global well-being and make sure nature doesn’t become hostile to humanity, team leaders should lead by example and implement environment-friendly innovations into their day-to-day workflows.
In and of itself, hybrid work is a step toward net-zero — however, leaders can maximize the impact of the change by investing in renewable energy, resource-efficient technologies, and fostering cooperation with net-zero advocates (accountable suppliers, NGOs, and municipal governments).
At oVice, we are mindful of the importance of reducing carbon emissions. Our engineering team prioritizes resource efficiency in product development and makes sure that our virtual office platform can support large-scale teams and events on minimum computing power.
We are hopeful that, by moving to virtual offices rather than being confined by physical spaces, companies will be able to cut down resource expenditure, lower the need for commuting, and foster environmentally friendly hybrid workplaces.