The growth of ‘conscious capitalism’ - and how hybrid working can play its part

The growth of ‘conscious capitalism’ - and how hybrid working can play its part

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies are increasingly thinking about far more than just the bottom line. So how can hybrid working help your sustainability goals?

The coronavirus pandemic has changed more than the way we live our daily lives. It’s also changed our attitude towards the world around us, with a new-found focus on our own wellbeing leading in turn to concerns about our planet and our fellow human beings.

According to a study by Accenture, 60% of consumers are now making more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases. And there’s a similar story in the world of investment. Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) assets under management have seen huge growth in the last 18 months, and Bloomberg predicts they will make up a third of projected total assets under management by 2025.

Doing well by doing good

The pandemic has also brought the best out of many corporations, generating countless stories of altruism and generosity from companies both large and small. According to Oxford Economics, SMEs in the UK donated more than £6bn in cash and gifts in kind to a range of good causes last year and also provided more than £11bn of volunteering time to charities. Higher up the corporate food chain, large companies pivoted to manufacturing PPE, hand sanitiser and even ventilators.

This spirit of altruism accelerated an existing trend of so-called ‘conscious capitalism’ that had already begun before Covid arrived. Back in August, 2019, it went mainstream when America’s Business Roundtable, a non-profit whose members are the CEOs of America’s biggest companies, released a new ‘Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation’. After decades of faithfully promoting the Milton Friedman doctrine that the only social responsibility of business is to maximise profits, the Roundtable announced that the interests of shareholders should now be placed on the same level as those of customers, employees, suppliers and communities. The statement was signed by nearly 200 CEOs, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook.

“This new statement better reflects the way corporations can and should operate today,” said Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson. “It affirms the essential role corporations can play in improving our society.”

Last summer, in the midst of the pandemic, the World Economic Forum pitched something even more revolutionary: a ‘Great Reset’ of capitalism that would put the wellbeing of people and the planet at the very centre of the way businesses are run.

“The world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions,” said WEF founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab. “Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed.”

Another way

For most companies, there is now a very real commitment to making a positive impact on the planet and its inhabitants. But how to go about it? Earlier this year, IWG showed one way that organisations can make significant progress along this road when it published a white paper demonstrating how the shift to a hybrid working model - where employees are empowered to split their time between a corporate HQ, home and a flexspace close to home - can support six of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, as follows.

Promoting Climate Action

The significant reduction in commuting brought about by the switch to hybrid brings the environmental benefits of a reduced carbon footprint for employers, who can simultaneously slim down their real estate portfolio, only occupying the space that they need – thus cutting down on energy use. Less commuter traffic on the roads means less pollution.

Good Health and Wellbeing

Employees are not only freed from stressful daily commutes but, because they work close to home, they can also enjoy the health benefits of walking or cycling to work. And the hybrid work model also brings an improved work-life balance.

Gender Equality

With daily attendance at a central office HQ no longer required with the hybrid model, women can more easily juggle (and share) family care responsibilities, which they have traditionally shouldered.

Economic Growth

According to Global Workplace Analytics, a typical employer can save around $11,000 every year for every person who works remotely half of the time. When multiplied across a whole organisation, this can amount to a significant amount of cash that can be redirected into growth or training, for example.

Sustainable Cities and Communities

The hub-and-spoke model twinned with hybrid working plays a key role in the development of the so-called ‘15-Minute City’, an urban planning concept aimed at making big cities sustainable in the future, in which everything people need to live and work is within a 15-minute radius of where they live.

It’s clear that there are significant environmental, social and economic benefits to adopting the hybrid model. For any business looking to further its ESG goals, it makes sense to follow this route.

As IWG Founder and CEO Mark Dixon says, “It’s hard to argue with a strategy that helps to reduce carbon emissions, improves employee health and wellbeing, aids economic growth and makes local communities more sustainable.”

Find out more in our Hybrid World: Sustainable World white paper.

Discover how using IWG flexspaces could help your business become a more sustainable workplace.