Does Homeworking reduce Carbon Emissions? Yes, Toronto Star, It Does

Working at Home Not So Good for the Planet”, appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper on February 5, 2016, largely based on a 2014 report from U.K. based Carbon Trust, Homeworking: Helping Businesses Cut Costs and Reduce their Carbon Footprint  . That 2014 document highlighted the issue of “rebound effects that result in increased carbon emissions, particularly from increased home energy consumption” – for example, the less-efficient heating of workers’ individual homes rather than common, energy efficient offices. By focusing on the “rebound effects”, the Toronto Star article missed some important points: the 13% increase of U.K. homeworkers between 2007 and 2012, as well as the report’s conclusion that “ if adopted and encouraged by employers across the country, homeworking could result in annual savings of over 3 million tonnes of carbon and cut costs by £3 billion.”

A far more informative, detailed report was released by Carbon Tracker in December 2015, GESI Mobile Carbon Impact: How Mobile Communications Technology is Enabling Carbon Emissions Reduction  . The report claims that “ Use of mobile communications technology is currently enabling a total reduction of 180 million tonnes of CO2 a year across the USA and Europe, and is expected to grow at least three times larger in the next 5 years.” 7% of carbon reduction relates to “connected working”, measured through reduced emissions from commuting and by use of audio or video connectivity in place of meetings. Further savings are made through reducing building energy consumption, by rationalising office space or reducing occupancy levels. The report notes that “nervousness” of employers is a barrier to  homeworking, but cites studies which found no loss of productivity or quality from homeworking, and suggest that the “nervousness” issue might be resolved by new approaches to supervision or management, such as monitoring practical outcomes rather than supervising process and attendance. A larger part of the report is devoted to the 70% of emissions abatement that is the result of machine-to-machine communications technologies in the buildings,transport and energy sectors, where devices are able to communicate automatically with each other, without human intervention.” (e.g. building management, route planning, smart grids in electricity distribution).

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