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The Correct Way to Calculate Work-From-Home Scope 3 GHG Emissions

With the change in work-life many of us experienced at the beginning of the pandemic - a shift from office work to home work - came an additional challenge: how do we adjust our GHG inventories to account for working from home (WFH)?

A number of great articles and papers outlining alternative approaches were published, but each had slight variations and nuances that differentiated it from the rest. This got us to wondering what the best way to perform these calculations actually was. To find an answer, we started with the GHG Protocol.

A mind map of our key learnings from various sources.

Alternative methodologies for Scope 3 remote work emissions calculations

GHG Protocol methodology for work-from-home emissions

The closest thing to a methodology for teleworking in the GHG protocol is Scope 3, Category 7: Employee Commuting. On the first page they say, "Companies may include emissions from teleworking (i.e., employees working remotely) in this category."

Their instructions are fairly minimal, and are essentially all contained with the following paragraph:

Companies may optionally calculate the emissions of teleworking from home. To calculate these emissions, a baseline emissions scenario should first be established. Baseline emissions occur regardless of whether or not the employee was at home (e.g., energy consumed by the refrigerator). The reporting company should only account for the additional emissions resulting from working from home, for example the electricity usage as a result of running the air conditioner to stay cool.

This leaves some room for interpretation, but the basic recommendation is clear: establish a baseline, then multiply the baseline by the ratio of working hours to non-working hours. Still, there are a number of different ways this baseline can be established. That is where the next sources began to fill in the gaps.

EcoAct Homeworking Emissions Whitepaper

EcoAct published a great White Paper early on in the pandemic. They showcase a number of useful calculations like working hours per period, as well as defining calculation approaches for three key emitting activities:

  1. Office Equipment
  2. Heating Energy
  3. Cooling Energy

While they don't dive into details like lifecycle emissions of equipment or fugitive emissions from refrigerant leakage, etc., they provide a solid approach to calculating WFH emissions for remote employees.

How to calculate working hours per period

However, we still wanted to see if there were other ways of calculating these emissions that were complete but also efficient. Next, we found Anthesis' approach.

Anthesis' Estimating Energy Consumption & GHG Emissions for Remote Workers White Paper

Anthesis provided another very solid approach to calculating telework emissions. The first differentiator is that they broke their recommendations down into three Methodological Approaches:

  1. No Survey
  2. Basic Survey
  3. Enhanced Survey

The idea is that based on your desired "ease of use, time and cost to implement, and data accuracy" you can select the approach that works for you. I like this, as it allows you to adjust your level of involvement based on the time and resources at your disposal.

They also provided an excellent source of specific energy and fuel intensity figures per residence in a number of common countries across the APAC, EMEA, and AMER regions. Regardless of your approach, these may come in handy.

Baseline Residential Energy Intensity by Country

As well as the energy intensities, they also reviewed other methodologies and provided their analysis.

Anthesis' review of Scope 3 approaches.

So what is the best or most correct approach to calculating Scope 3 WFH emissions? The answer, as is often the case in climate, is unclear. Our recommendation is to be as accurate and inclusive as possible with the time and resources you have available to you. Spending weeks finding the right factors will not get you closer to what is most important: reducing your emissions.

Interested in reviewing all the references we looked at? Take a look at the mind map here.

Do you need help with your Scope 1, 2, or 3 inventory? Perhaps we can help. Book a meeting with me.

Are you ready to measure your organization's carbon emissions? Try Breeze, our leading carbon accounting tool, today.

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