How Can Hybrid Working Help You Progress Towards Net Zero?
In this blog, Alison Colwell explores the benefits that adopting hybrid working can bring to organisations who are committed to sustainability and reducing their green house gas (GHG) emissions.
What was once seen as a temporary response to the short-term crisis engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic has now become the norm across the U.K. and Europe.
Today, the vast majority of European companies have embraced hybrid work in some form. They’ve done this for many reasons, including greater job satisfaction, enhanced productivity, improved work-life balance for employees, and reduced real estate costs.
So far, relatively few organisations have adopted hybrid working models just to realise Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) objectives, but this is changing quickly.
The pandemic-induced shift to remote work offered many companies a window into a more sustainable future, including: reduced energy consumption with the downsizing of office space and reduced carbon emissions as employees spent less of their time commuting.
Business stakeholders have realised it is possible to create more sustainable workplaces – something that will only become more important in the future
Growing environmental concerns
In 2020, the sudden shift to remote and hybrid work invited business leaders to reimagine what it means for work to take place. Increasing scrutiny of greenhouse gas emissions by citizens and regulators will further challenge decision-makers to think about what they can do to reduce their organisations’ environmental impact. We predict that it’s more than likely that further changes are to come.
By the end of the COP26 conference held in November 2021, 151 countries had submitted climate plans for cutting carbon emissions in an effort to achieve net zero by 2030, with the aim of limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C.
This high-profile event raised awareness among consumers and employees, many of whom are now asking the companies they buy from and work for about their ESG practices. A survey conducted by Unily revealed that 65% of employees said they’d prefer to work for a company with strong ESG policies. Also, a recent report from KPMG not only found that 46% of UK office workers want to see their company demonstrate a commitment to ESG but 20% have actually turned down a job when the company’s ESG commitments didn’t align with their values.
Within Europe, the upcoming EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which will come into force in 2024, will obligate large enterprises to disclose the environmental impact of their operations. This will help end ‘greenwashing’1, make it easier for shoppers to choose sustainable brands, and for employees to choose to work for companies whose values match their own.
Hybrid work: an important step on the road to net zero
Because employees commute less often, and because less office space is needed per person, hybrid and flexible working models can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This doesn’t mean that ESG objectives are a primary driver of organisations’ shift to hybrid work. In The Okta Hybrid Work Report 2023 we surveyed 500 digital workplace decision-makers across the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden. We found that, rather than motivating organisations to adopt hybrid work, ESG is rising in prominence on business agendas in tandem with the adoption of new workplace strategies.
European companies’ current investment strategies do reflect the growing importance of ESG. A clear majority of the respondents to our survey (72%) reported that their organisations had increased their investments in ESG initiatives within the past two years. Growing numbers of European companies are also tracking the environmental impact of their workplace strategy: more than two-thirds of the respondents are already actively doing so, and another one-third said that they’re considering it.
Here at Okta, we have experienced the sustainability benefits of hybrid work adoption firsthand.
Like many organisations around the globe, we found that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated our shift to what we call Dynamic Work.
To measure the environmental impact of our adoption of a dynamic workplace strategy, we commissioned a study from global sustainability consultancy, Anthesis. The research revealed that hybrid work can reduce GHG emissions from reduced workplace square footage per person (limiting environmental impacts associated with factors like air conditioning, heating, lighting), and less travel to work by car.
With Dynamic work, Okta also expanded its 100% renewable electricity program to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) to match our electricity consumption from employees’ remote work, in addition to our global offices and cloud services.
A secure foundation for a sustainable future
As our findings in The Okta Hybrid Work Report 2023 suggests, the reduction of GHG emissions is rising on the agenda for corporate leaders in Europe. They’re pursuing this vision of sustainability to meet increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, as well as to satisfy their customers’ desire to buy from environmentally-conscious brands.
To achieve these goals, organisations are replacing outdated on-premises hardware with modern cloud solutions (which have the potential to be more efficient). They’re also examining strategies (like hybrid work adoption) that enable them to reduce GHG emissions while meeting employee needs for flexibility and improved work-life balance.
A successful hybrid work strategy rests upon four key pillars. Organisations striving to empower their employees to work whenever, wherever, and however they want need to be able to:
- Deliver first-class user experiences to their employees
- Ensure security and resilience
- Maintain privacy and compliance
- Reduce the environmental impact of their operations
Successful hybrid work adoption and progress towards net zero can go hand in hand. Especially now that the significant reduction of GHG is both technologically achievable and economically attractive. By taking the right steps towards building a dynamic, hybrid work environment, they’re bringing a more sustainable future within reach.
Learn more about how Okta Workforce Identity Cloud is empowering leading organisations to implement Zero Trust-based security while keeping their hybrid and remote employees productive. Or download The Okta Hybrid Work Report 2023 to explore all of our findings in depth.
Okta's commitment to sustainability and employee wellbeing
At Okta we have set validated science-based targets (SBTs) for absolute emissions reductions aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. These include:
- Reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions, those controlled or owned by a company, 67% by FY2030 against an FY2020 base year
- Reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions, those not produced by a company or assets it owns, from business travel and employee commuting transportation 42% by FY2030 against an FY2020 base year
- Ensure that 65% of Okta’s suppliers for purchased goods and services and capital goods have science-based targets by FY2027
We created The Dynamic Work Sustainability Guide for employees to bring sustainability from our offices into their own personal environments and daily lives. This comprehensive guide focuses on six areas: food, energy, waste, water, transportation, and wellbeing.
Our evolving workplace strategy also allowed us to invest more in our office space allowing us to achieve both WELL Silver and LEED Silver certification for all of our new direct lease sites globally.
- Attempt to make it look like your company is doing more to tackle climate change than it actually is.