EcoAct launches first ever open-source carbon calculation to overcome remote working emissions gap

International climate change consultancy EcoAct alongside major corporates today published an open source methodology for companies that need to calculate the impacts of an increasing number of employees working from home on corporate carbon emissions.

The paper, written in collaboration with EcoAct clients NatWest Group and Lloyds Banking Group and following a roundtable consultation with six major corporates, aims to define a simple and easy to use process for calculating emissions of a workforce increasingly based at their own homes as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

An estimated 47% of UK employees – 14 million people – were reported to be working from home in April this year, and as we head towards the winter months and inevitable increases in energy consumption for heating and lighting, it is vital that corporates are accounting for the shifting boundaries of their operational emissions and have a way to reliably assess them for 2020 and beyond.

Research carried out in July 2020 by UK energy supplier Bulb in partnership with EcoAct, estimated that UK firms could face a ‘black hole’ of 470,000 tonnes of carbon this year due to unaccounted energy use incurred by employees at home, potentially undermining the UK’s long-term net zero emissions ambition. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to flying around the world over 84,700 times in economy class.

This new paper sets out a base case for three areas of emissions generated from homeworking (emissions from office equipment, heating energy and cooling energy) and provides the calculations companies need to robustly assess these emissions in their 2020 reporting.

Fiona Cannon, Group Sustainable Business Director, Lloyds Banking Group said: “Even before the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have supported an agile approach for our colleagues, enabling them to work from home and look at different working patterns. 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a further reduction in our carbon emissions, most notably through less travel, we recognise the need to balance this against the additional emissions caused by colleagues working from home. 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.”

NatWest Group agrees that “as our ways of working continue to change through this pandemic and beyond, it is essential that companies understand the full impact such changes are having on their carbon emissions.

“This year we announced ambitious targets to reduce our climate impact, which include making our operations net zero by the end of 2020. Homeworking emissions are currently excluded from our footprint calculations due to the historic lack of a clear methodology and the associated data collection challenges. 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.”

Most large companies choose to disclose emissions in line with the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) protocol standards. Under the GHG protocol, homeworking is currently an optional disclosure covered in the Employee Commuting (Category 7) section. EcoAct’s methodology seeks to supplement and support the GHG protocol by providing a standardised format which businesses can cite in their disclosures.

The full whitepaper is accessible here:

About EcoAct

EcoAct, an Atos company, is a international sustainability consultancy and project developer, headquartered in Paris, with 160 employees in offices across France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States and Kenya. The company has unmatched depth and breadth in delivering holistic solutions to enable businesses to reduce their carbon emissions while driving commercial performance. EcoAct has undertaken carbon reduction and sustainability projects for some of the world’s leading brands while also developing and partnering with carbon offset, biodiversity and economic development programmes across Africa, Asia, China and South America. EcoAct is a CDP gold partner, a founding member of ICROA, a strategic partner in the implementation of the Gold Standard for the Global Goals and reports to the UN Global Compact.

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