Return to the office is ‘biggest challenge to sustainability’

A large-scale return to working at central offices is the biggest challenge to sustainability right now.

So says Alexandra Nicholson, Senior Director of Social Media and Impact at Pegasystems (Pega) in a new report How Sustainable is the Technology Sector? Part Two from thought leadership consultancy iResearch Services.

The warning comes as global business leaders including Tesla boss Elon Musk, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink all call for remote workers to return to the office.

In the follow-up report to How Sustainable is the Technology Sector? Part One, Alexandra Nicholson says, “I think the biggest challenge we’re seeing right now is how return-to-office will affect our overall sustainability scores. I think that’s top-of-mind.

“Everyone had extremely low carbon emissions scores in 2020 and 2021, and we learned a lot about how to benchmark in that timeframe. So, as we start thinking about returning to the office, how do we continue those gains? I think that’s the most immediate concern.”

The opening up of trade shows and events in the technology industry will contribute to the increase in travel and a rise in carbon emissions. Companies need to balance the need to meet face-to-face with the advantages of virtual events, the latter having a lesser carbon footprint.

“The tech industry really relies on events – to show, sell and connect. We need to make sure we’ve taken the gains from virtual events, and we’re allowing people to not physically attend something, not physically have to go somewhere, and instead get learnings from you as a company in a really sustainable way that fits their personal footprint and the corporate guidelines of their employers. That’s going to be an important balance to find,” says Alexandra.

“People are really eager to go back to in-person because those connections are really strong. But we’ve learned that, in addition to sustainability and accessibility, the virtual world has also helped democratize access to information regardless of geography.”

According to How Sustainable is the Technology Sector? Part One, which includes responses from 550 executives from 11 countries, working from home offers benefits for gender diversity.

Female leaders say the availability and de-stigmatization of hybrid and remote working has helped to improve gender equality.

Making remote working more accessible helps to create a more inclusive workforce, too, offering opportunities for leaders and employees with disabilities and specific accessibility needs to be able to work flexibly.

In the fight for talent, creating a more diverse and inclusive culture helps differentiate businesses and contribute to building a specialised and harmonious workforce.

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