Ways of working

Easy ways to make your business more sustainable

Reading time:  4 Minutes

From quality education to zero hunger, the United Nations has 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 that are designed to help make the world a better place. In a recent white paper called Hybrid World: Sustainable World, Regus’ parent company IWG found that the simple adoption of the hybrid working model businesses can support six of these goals with ease – climate action, sustainable cities and communities, decent work and economic growth, good health and wellbeing, gender equality and clean energy.

Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO of IWG, says in the company’s report: “As a result of the pandemic, there’s 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. At IWG, we believe that the adoption of a hybrid working model brings considerable sustainability benefits. It can also be the foundation of a new approach to work and life that benefits both the planet and its people.”

Five ideas for lowering your company’s impact on the planet…

Reduce commutes

According to research led by University of Oxford transport professor Christian Brand, using a bike to get to work instead of a car just once a day reduces an average citizen’s carbon emissions from transport by 67%. Using public transport also helps. If the same percentage of the population replaced one car trip with one trip by train, for example, the transport emissions of individuals would be 19% lower.

Hybrid working is perfectly suited to lowering the carbon footprint of employees because it removes the need to commute every day of the week. Instead, people can work from home or a local flexspace within easy reach of where they live by bike or on foot, meaning they only need to go to a city centre office on a part-time basis.

Downsize offices

Having a large office or network of offices comes with its own set of environmental implications in terms of heating and energy usage, so if businesses want to lower their overall carbon footprint it’s much more efficient for them to downsize their corporate real estate and instead use shared flexspaces. Some of the locations in the Regus network – such as the Regus Trondheim, which opened in 2019 in the Norwegian city’s first ‘energy positive’ building, Powerhouse Brattørkaia – are particularly planet-friendly. It’s also much better to use communal flexspaces like this rather than working from home, as otherwise all the emphasis goes on heating and lighting people’s houses all day, which is also wasteful, especially during the winter.

Limit business travel

According to the World Economic Forum, employee travel is “one of the greatest contributors to corporate carbon emissions”, yet research shows that most company’s “aren’t taking real action to make such programmes any greener”.

After an enforced hiatus from business travel during the pandemic, now is a good time for firms to start from scratch with their policies. Where possible, video meetings should continue to be used and, if someone does need to travel internationally, they should stay longer and see more clients to make the trip as meaningful as possible.

For those people that are flying less and staying longer, there is also the option of working from overseas coworking spaces, so they behave more like a local than an out-of-towner flying in and out for one quick meeting. Having access to internationally branded serviced offices also guarantees certain standards such as a professional environment and great internet.

Work local

Sustainability isn’t just about carbon footprint – it’s also about building communities and economic growth. That’s why working locally in suburban or even rural areas where a lot of people live is better than going into a city every day. This is because residents stay in their area and spend money at local cafés, shops and coworking spaces instead of in cities that already have a lot of wealth.

IWG’s Mark Dixon points out that IWG workspaces outside London’s orbital M25 motorway have surged in popularity during the pandemic, with towns on the outskirts of the capital emerging as working ‘hotspots’, while demand for space in the City of London has dropped 26%. In the last two years, almost all new IWG centres have been opened in non-city environments and regions.

As professionals embrace a working day that fits seamlessly into a local ecosystem that caters to all of their needs (from gyms to work hubs), the consequence will be the growth of model villages, which offer people everything they need for work-life balance.

Send fewer emails

You might not realise it but emails have a carbon footprint. According to the book How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee, just one email is responsible for 4g CO2e, while an email with an attachment could produce 50g CO2e. This means that the average remote worker could send enough emails in a year to create 0.6 tonnes of CO2e (data published on Carbon Literacy).

Sending fewer unnecessary emails will help lower a company’s impact on the planet too. According to Ovo Energy, if every British person sent one less “thank you” email a day, it would save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year. Deleting unnecessary emails instead of letting them pile up in inboxes and folders also helps – this is because the data has to be stored in a physical remote server, which consumes a huge amount of energy.

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