WEF cranks up demands for sustainability: how will businesses respond?

WEF cranks up demands for sustainability: how will businesses respond?

As the World Economic Forum calls for businesses to do more to tackle climate change, hybrid has a substantial contribution to make. By reducing commuting and offering scalable office solutions, hybrid working allows businesses to drastically lower their carbon footprint.

At the November 2022 COP summit, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reaffirmed that “the climate crisis requires urgent global action on mitigation and adaptation”. Translating words into actions is now the name of the game, and to support this, the WEF has outlined three key actions businesses can take to do their bit to help tackle climate change.

Those three actions? Firstly, “enhance resilience” by identifying and mitigating against climate risks, such as extreme weather, throughout the supply chain. Secondly, “capitalise on opportunities” to operate more sustainably. And thirdly, “shape collaborative outcomes” through engaging with others, particularly by partnering with local communities. 

As the WEF comments, “The more energetically business dedicates itself to [climate] adaptation, the more society as a whole is helped to adapt and benefit.” So how should they do this?

Cutting emissions by cutting the commute

For business decision-makers, the answer to taking action in the climate crisis arguably lies most significantly in the third WEF point: the local community. If proof were needed, we need only to look at the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns on global emissions to see the potential of cutting down on commuting and focusing on the local and hyper-local.

According to Future Earth’s Global Carbon Project, the 2020 lockdowns caused CO₂ emissions to fall by an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes. This was a record drop, with the largest share of the global decrease coming from reduced transport emissions, both on the ground and in the air.

As SAP points out, “What if, when making decisions about who comes into the office and when, executives considered the carbon footprint generated by employee travel and commutes… along with the sustainability causes that their employees support?” Forward-thinking businesses have already worked out that hybrid working can be an invaluable tool here, particularly when they empower employees with the option to work in flexible workspaces in the heart of their local communities. Instead of lengthy commutes, employees have the option to work from home or at a flexspace that’s within an easy walking or cycling distance.

A 15-minute city

Using a hybrid of traditional office space and flexspaces means employees spend less time commuting, immediately lowering a company’s carbon footprint dramatically. The idea of the 15-minute City – a place where everything a resident needs in life is found within 15 minutes of their home – puts this into practice, making commuting a thing of the past.

Of course, the sustainability benefits of hybrid and flexspaces go further still. Infinitely scalable, they allow companies to be totally flexible in their office spaces so that they always have the right amount of space for their current needs – no more powering (and paying for) office headquarters that sit empty part of the time.

Greener workspaces for a greener future

Flexspaces are the future of work. As such, it is little surprise that these buildings have sustainability baked into many core elements of their infrastructure and facilities, making modern workspaces greener than ever.

While sustainability is at the very heart of the hybrid model, IWG is committed to delivering best-in-class sustainable workspaces. From Belgium's largest private heat network at Spaces in Antwerp, to the electric vehicle charging points at workspaces across the UK, and the solar carport at Regus One Welches which makes it one of the most energy-efficient commercial buildings in Barbados, these sustainability-focused features are arriving to all corners of the working world. 

The move away from headquarter-dependence

The answer to a more sustainable future for the world of business lies in a move away from depending on their headquarters. IWG founder Mark Dixon comments: “To fully normalise this shift in behaviour, I believe many more companies need to offer their employees the opportunity to work partly at home, partly from a nearby workspace, and maybe just occasionally at HQ.”

There are many things businesses can do to be more sustainable, and hybrid working – which also meets employee needs by offering better work-life balance – appears to be one of the major steps that can be taken. Better for people, better for the planet and better for profit: it’s a win, win, win.

Discover how IWG can help your company lower its carbon footprint with hybrid, with advice on your workplace strategy and access to 3,500 flexible workspaces worldwide.