Framework aims to plug growing 'remote working emissions gap' and prevent businesses from underreporting carbon produced by millions of employees working from home
With more than 14 million people now working from home and colder temperatures looming as winter beckons, businesses across the UK are at risk of underreporting their emissions if they do not update their carbon calculations to account for energy and electricity use incurred by employees not in the office.
In a bid to overcome this growing 'remote working emissions gap', sustainability consultancy EcoAct has today published a new guide for firms looking to update their operational emissions calculations to account for the homeworking boom.
Emissions incurred by heating and cooling homes and the power consumption of laptops, screens, lighting, and other home office equipment are the three main areas that need to be included in company carbon reporting, according to the document, which sets out how companies can accurately calculate these emissions in their 2020 reporting.
Carbon emissions generated by homeworking energy and power use are currently listed as an optional disclosure in most carbon reporting frameworks, but with nearly half the UK workforce now avoiding the office to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, there have been growing calls for the rules to be clarified.
In July, energy film Bulb warned UK businesses would facing a "black hole" of more than 470,000 tonnes of carbon this year if they ignored energy use incurred by employees working from home in their carbon calculations.
But EcoAct said today its free methodology could "supplement and support" the Greenhouse Gas Protocol carbon reporting framework used by many corporates, by providing a standardised diclosure format for reporting working from home emissions for business.
It produced the methodology alongside NatWest Group and Lloyds Banking Group, following a consultation with a raft of UK businesses, including Bulb.
"This report is a valuable step in navigating the challenge of measuring carbon emissions associated with home working and supports organisations in taking action to tackle the threat of climate change," said Lloyds Banking Group's sustainable business director Fiona Cannon.
A NatWest spokesperson emphasised it was "essential" that companies had greater visibility over their carbon emissions as ways of working evolved during the pandemic.
"Homeworking emissions are currently excluded from our footprint calculations due to the historic lack of a clear methodology and the associated data collection challenges," they said. "Given the significant shift in working patterns seen in 2020, we feel it is important to be able to assess the materiality of the displaced emissions, enabling us to make better decisions about how we tackle them in the future."
The boom in homeworking is thought to have led to a reduction in some transport emissions related to commuting, but at the same time there are fears emissions from road transport could increase as people avoid public transport. Similarly, emissions from offices have fallen, but there are concerns that the army of home workers, often working in inefficient homes, will simply mean the source of emissions have shifted.
Meanwhile, fuel poverty groups have warned home working employees could see their energy bills increase by more than £100 this winter as people spend more time at home. Concerns over the impact of home working have led to calls for government and employers alike to step up support for households to help them improve their energy efficiency. The Treasury last month launched a new £3bn energy efficiency grant programme, but experts have warned a longer term scheme is needed to help drive improvements across the UK housing stock.
The new working from home emissions methodology comes as a study today showed the coronavirus had turbocharged citizens' concern about climate change.
The poll, commissioned by management consultancy Lansons and Opinium Research, revealed more than a third of adults said they felt more concerned about climate change as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than half wanted the government to prioritise the environment in its economic recovery plans.
The government is expected to come forward with a new 10 point green economic recovery plan this autumn, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his conference speech this week to strengthen the UK's offshore wind power goals and sketch out plans for a green industrial revolution to help power the post-coronavirus recovery.
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