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Carbon Impact of the Future of Work: The Environmental Implications of Remote Working

Accountability and transparency are the cornerstones of VMware’s ESG strategy, as we work towards a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient digital future. Our active participation in public, voluntary ESG disclosures has not only helped us build and protect trust with all of our stakeholders — our customers, partners, shareholders, people, and communities — it has helped us make data-driven, informed decisions. As part of this effort, for six years in a row, we have participated in CDP’s Climate Change Disclosure program, which comprehensively evaluates our governance structure, climate-related risks/opportunities management strategy, low-carbon transition planning, emissions performance, and stakeholder engagement. CDP is a global environmental non-profit and its A-List recognizes companies committed to reducing carbon emissions and managing climate-change risk.

Last year was a momentous one for all of us. We already understood how much our daily lives relied on a digital foundation. But overnight, the global pandemic forced us to lean more heavily on it — for  government, groceries, education, work … even for social contact. Distributed workforce models became mainstream. These changes produced both new opportunities and new conundrums for organizations of all sizes. Companies were forced to find a balance between employee flexibility, business productivity, and environmental sustainability.

On the surface, having employees work from home seems to decrease the corporate carbon footprint. Fewer employees commuting to work means less fossil-fuel emissions. Fewer employees in the office means less onsite electrical usage. Nevertheless, remote workers still have a carbon footprint. In 2020, we assessed — for the first time — the carbon impact of VMware employees working from home as part of our Scope 3 employee-commute emissions.

In collaboration with our Workplace team, the VMware ESG team developed a custom methodology to estimate the home-office emissions of our global distributed workforce. We started with a bottom-up approach to account for the impact of key energy end uses in a typical home office, such as IT equipment usage (the electrical plug load of the devices our employees use to work), lighting, and space conditioning (heating and cooling). We also divided our global workforce into groups based on location to help account for regional variations in climate and emissions.

As we fully transition into VMware’s Future of Work model, our home-office impact evaluation methodology will evolve into a hybrid model to account for the impact of our distributed workforce: employees may choose to commute to one of our office locations or work remotely or a combination of both. We plan to extend footprint-reduction strategies and programs to our employees’ homes, as they are now part of our corporate operational boundary. This focus represents the beginning of a new journey.

As a technology-solutions provider, we stand ready to help our customers enable their global employees to work remotely. We believe that our customers can leverage our home-office impact evaluation methodology to supplement their employee-commute carbon-impact assessment.

Read more in our new whitepaper, “Carbon Impact of the Future of Work – The Environmental Implications of Remote Working.”

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