New framework to help businesses account for emissions of remote workers

Energy and sustainability managers seeking to account for the emissions generated by employees working from home due to Covid-19 - of which there are 14 million in the UK alone - now have access to a new calculation tool.

Remote workers in the UK are likely to use more light and heating in the coming months, while those in the southern hemisphere may use more cooling

Remote workers in the UK are likely to use more light and heating in the coming months, while those in the southern hemisphere may use more cooling

Produced by consultancy EcoAct, the tool provides a framework for calculating emissions relating to home heating, home cooling and office equipment that has been taken away by staff. These three areas are the highest contributors to the average home worker’s carbon footprint during work hours.

The methodology for the tool was developed with input from utility challenger Bulb and major banks NatWest Group and Lloyds Group. EcoAct said in a statement that it should “supplement and support” the nation’s most widely used corporate reporting framework, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Under current reporting regulations in the UK, businesses are not mandated to disclose energy use and emissions generated by remote workers. This is an optional disclosure by law and in most voluntary frameworks.

But EcoAct has warned that this approach is not fit-for-purpose in the context of the pandemic. Under current guidance across the UK, everyone who is capable of working from home should do so. Some regions have seen certain kinds of business forced to close altogether through local lockdown restrictions.

“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,” Lloyds Banking Group’s sustainable business director Fiona Cannon said. 

“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.”

Accounting gap

Back in June, the Office for National Statistics revealed that 44-47% of UK employees were working exclusively from home.

EcoAct worked with Bulb to calculate that UK businesses would, therefore, collectively under-report their emissions by 470,000 tonnes for the calendar year unless they measured emissions from remote workers. This could risk their alignment with the UK's 2050 net-zero target and interim carbon budgets.

While the proportion of home workers may have decreased, the carbon footprint of the average worker is likely to increase in the coming months as days become shorter and colder, EcoAct believes.

Sarah George



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