COVID-19: How can businesses make a green recovery from the pandemic?

The pandemic has presented governments, businesses, and individuals with an unprecedented global health and humanitarian challenge. As a result, deep economic disruption has been felt across the globe which has had a knock-on effect on how we work, shop, save, spend, and prioritise. 

Many are now questioning what life will be like post-pandemic. What will we have learnt? Will the pandemic cause a permanent change in the way we view the world and the choices we make as individuals and as businesses? 

Even before the pandemic, businesses were facing pressure to steer away from ‘business as usual’ and instead implement changes that benefit society and the environment, not just the bottom line. 

The pandemic has now accelerated the need to re-think strategy to become more agile along with how to re-engage the workforce; how to fix broken supply chains; how to reduce operational risks and more.  

More importantly, it has created the opportunity to reset and change old habits and question – how can we build back better and emerge from this as a greener and more sustainable member of society?   

Energy efficiency 

Energy efficiency should be at the forefront of any business looking to make a green recovery. Effective energy management reduces running costs, lowers carbon emissions, and demonstrates to customers that a business is environmentally aware.  

The need for energy management systems had already been accelerated by the 2050 net-zero carbon goal. In addition, organisations that are looking to enforce permanent remote working will also want to invest in energy management that supports off-site working and provides visibility over workforce efficiency and consumption. 

Energy data and analytics provided by energy management systems, such as AEMS provide useful insight that can be used to influence strategy. For example, being able to see how much energy is saved by having employees work remotely versus an office at full capacity will enable businesses to make decisions on what size office will be most cost-effective. Also, offices that are not at full capacity will benefit from energy data as it will allow them to pinpoint where energy is most required in the building. In addition, businesses can empower energy champions to manage energy within the company. AEMS can be accessed remotely, so all staff can be empowered to contribute to implementing and sustaining energy efficiency behaviors.  

Improved travel habits

Considerably one of the biggest shifts over the last months has been the shift to remote working which has proved employees can work just as, if not more, productively at home.

As a result, transport habits have shifted, with fewer people traveling into work. It has drastically reduced CO2 emissions, particularly in cities and urban areas with a large density. According to the Integrated Carbon Observation System report, London carbon emissions fell to 59% during the lockdown, with fewer car journeys as a major reason for the drop in emissions (ICOS 2020). Scientists from the study suggest it is critical that these low-carbon behaviors are adopted post-pandemic.

The link between poor air quality and health risks such as respiratory issues is already widely known. However, according to new research, air pollution has also been referenced as a factor in COVID-19, with short-term exposure potentially making viral infection more likely.

Faced with this evidence and policy direction it is now up to businesses to encourage remote working to avoid returning to old travel habits. Some ways this can be done include implementing incentives that encourage cycling or walking to work, providing technology that enables remote working, and implementing some sort of hot-desking or rotary Thereby reducing travel pollution and promoting well-being amongst employees. Read more

Workers commuting in Liverpool Street Station

Advocate cleaner travel

For some employees working from home isn’t possible and, in those cases, once employees start filtering back into the office, it’s important to continue reducing the environmental impact through cleaner travel.

Public transport, such as the London Underground and car-sharing with other co-workers, are usually the go-to options for greener travel. However, social distancing and mandatory face masks are likely to affect these preferred ways to travel.

Instead, businesses should look to implement incentives such as cycle to work schemes for workers who tend to have a shorter commute – a great employee benefit – and carbon neutral. Additionally, cycle to work schemes also has tax benefits for organisations, with employers being able to save 13.8% on Natural Insurance Contributions.

Can businesses build back better?

As we emerge from the COVID-19 economic disruption, there are calls being made for there to be a green recovery that guarantees decarbonisation and avoids bailing out fragile fossil fuelHowever, new information on the pandemic arises every day, making it hard to determine what the future holds for organisations 

Despite this, one thing is certain, a green and sustainable recovery would promote changes to travel habits, improved air pollution, greater health, well-being, and more. Businesses making changes now to their sustainability strategy may be the only chance we have to reset ‘business as usual’ and promote permanent changes in behaviour in order to turn the tide towards a greener economy and build back better.  

wind farm, turbines