Why virtual teams will increase in importance

The science is clear, If we are to preserve life on the planet, in all its forms, we are going to have to transition to a low-carbon economy. To do so is going to require a global World War II-like mobilization the signs that this may in fact happen are beginning to emerge. Expect the intensity of this conversation to increase.

Every responsible business should be considering what role they can play in carbon emission reduction and how to transition the business to be a low-carbon entity.

The first step in this process is to get a good grasp of the science. Here I highly recommend the IPCC’s recent Summary for Policymakers, which was produced to give policymakers a high level view of the Special Report: Global Warming 1.5°C.

Next is to understand where the emissions are being created and then aggressively working on strategies to reduce these.

Here is the current global CO2 emission breakdown per industry.

So globally the breakdown of the top 5 emission producing activities is:

  1. Electricity and heat (31%)

  2. Transportation (15%)

  3. Manufacturing (12%)

  4. Agriculture (11%)

  5. Forestry (6%)

The above 5 are responsible for 75% of global emission.

Each of these areas are being scrutinized to see how reductions can be made. For the purpose of this discussion, I would like to focus in on Transportation.

When looking at transportation the IPCC report clearly shows that emissions produced by road transport making up the bulk of emissions. (72.06%)

A really big impact can be made on daily passenger vehicle tailpipe emissions by enabling people to forego the need to commute into an office. This is especially true for knowledge workers. (Take a look at this example of how much can be saved)

As stated in the IPCC report avoiding journeys where possible is a definite way to reduce motor vehicle emissions:

avoiding journeys where possible—by, for example, densifying urban landscapes, sourcing localized products, internet shopping, restructuring freight logistics systems, and utilizing advanced information and communication technologies (ICT)“

Climate conscious leadership teams need to look at developing virtual teams as a way to dramatically improve their contribution to bringing emissions down. All responsible businesses should be looking at reductions as an urgent priority.

Having the skill to develop and manage virtual teams is going to become increasingly important as fossil fuel driven modes of transport are curtailed. (Do reach out here if you would like to begin this conversation for your organization.)

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE famously said. “Change before you have to.”

Dramatic regulations are on the horizon for how we will use transportation to reduce tailpipe emissions, including as we have seen by banning of the sale of internal combustion engine motor vehicles after a certain date in some European countries. These regulations will become more stringent and urgent in the next decade.

Unless you are in a situation where most of your employees can switch to Electric Vehicles (EV’s) or use electrified public transport to get to and from the office, the only other alternative to reducing tailpipe emissions associated with your business is to develop a well designed digital workplace which allows you to work as a virtual team.

Developing the skill to work virtually will put you ahead of the regulations and learning to work this way now will ensure you experience less disruption in future.

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