September 13, 2021 | Joseph D. Simpson and Wesley van Barlingen
The modern office has evolved dramatically since the beginning of the century. Employees gained more freedom than ever before, companies began competing on employee benefits beyond compensation and healthcare, and employee engagement became a common boardroom mantra.
And then came Covid 19, work from home orders, and a whole new reality for businesses big and small. However, one thing stands out amongst all of these changes and is only growing stronger: Employees’ demands for an employer who undertakes meaningful action on climate change.
Over the same period, electric mobility has become a critical tool in building a sustainable future in the eyes of many. As a result, the amount of EVs on the road is exploding and this trend is only set to continue. However, the rise of EVs has overshot EV charging infrastructure — creating an increased need for charging facilities to meet this growing demand. But how do offices and EVs go together?
“Earth is near burnout,” states the Future Workplaces Report 2020. “It can’t process the toxins we’re pumping into it or replace its depleted resources. Something has to change. Setting targets for zero carbon, biodiversity net gain, and supporting the circular economy are all vital responses – and this is where facility management and offices can make a difference.”
In this article, we’re going to dive deep into the evolution of the modern sustainable office, why more businesses are investing in EV charging infrastructure as an employee benefit, and how they’re helping employers walk the talk when it comes to sustainability.
Meaningful action on sustainability has become a key expectation from employees all around the globe. And it’s no surprise; with environmental challenges being felt on every continent, employees are demanding their working lives contribute to climate solutions. In fact, according to one survey 83 percent of millennial workers would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues. To address this defined shift in employee’s attitudes, businesses are beginning to prioritize climate positive initiatives and focus on sustainability to boost employee satisfaction.
One of the most obvious ways this demand is manifesting is in where employees spend (or want to spend) the majority of their working lives: the office. Even before the pandemic, sustainable and carbon efficient offices were popping up all over to signify companies’ climate commitments.
Beyond the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra of yesteryear, commitments to sustainability have led to an increased emphasis on energy efficiency, circular economy principles, and biodiversity in constructing the office of tomorrow. They’ve also shot green certifications like BREEAM and LEED up into the minds of many facility managers as well as concepts like material passports and biomimicry.
Take Deloitte’s new Amsterdam office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as an example. The Edge as it’s called is energy-positive, which means it produces more electricity than it consumes, uses collected rainwater to flush toilets and water its gardens, and integrates numerous smart and sustainable technologies to create adaptable and intelligent work spaces. The building, hailed as one of the world's greenest office buildings, was awarded the highest BREEAM accreditation score ever for an office building.
Yet, embedding sustainability principles in buildings hasn’t been limited to design and construction either. Inside modern offices, employers are turning their attention to creating a sustainable and healthy workplace. For example, many are integrating systems to increase natural ventilation and insulation, create more natural lighting, and build green indoor spaces to create.
These efforts to reconnect with nature not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also actively contribute to happier, healthier and more productive employees.
These trends will only be exasperated by the pandemic. Whereas working from the office used to be non-negotiable for many companies, now it’s a luxury experience. But this is only true if office spaces live up to the standards we’ve become accustomed to whilst working from home. In other words, employees will only want to go back to the office if and when it satisfies their wants and needs.
Employees are turning towards electric vehicles. In recent years, both Europe and America have seen a large increase in the number of electric cars on the roads.
According to EY research, “By 2050, the percentage of electric vehicles on the road is expected to reach 65 percent in the US, up from just 2 percent estimated for 2020.” In Europe, the predictions are similar.
This uptake in EVs is accelerating due to a number of factors, including the fall in prices of lithium-ion batteries and EVs in general, an increase in range, lower costs for fuel and maintenance and a host of government incentives.
As the EV market continues to accelerate, the likelihood that your employees are either considering, or even already driving an EV goes up.
The vast majority of EV drivers are more often-than-not employed full time, have a higher level of education than the average population and a median household income of $150,000. What’s more, one in three are under 35. Does this demographic sound familiar? It should… it’s the top talent your business is searching for.
In the battle for top talent, green means gold.
Employees, and especially the employees you want, are attracted to companies with a strong environmental ethos. In fact, today 58 percent of employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. This becomes increasingly important when taking into account younger generations; 64 percent of whom won't take a job if their employer doesn’t have a strong CSR policy.
With the growing environmental concerns of employees and pressure on employers mounting to create a positive impact, forward-thinking workplaces are looking to EV chargers as a potential solution.
EV charging attracts and retains talent because although the electric mobility transition is accelerating, public EV charging infrastructure hasn’t kept up the pace. Many workers living in dense urban areas don’t have the option to charge at home. As a result, employees are looking to workplaces as a charging destination.
Following our research, 40 percent of European EV drivers already charge their vehicle at work and a further 20 percent indicate that they would like to be able to do so. In addition, in the US, nearly four in five drivers say that there are not enough charging options at work.
The research, done in partnership with Ipsos, suggests that businesses that step up to provide charging stations and electric cars for employees will accelerate the nation’s shift to emission-free EVs and make themselves more attractive to potential hires.
Business fleets are a key player in the transition to electric mobility and will in turn, drive more private consumers to EVs. With almost two thirds of all new cars in Europe bought by private companies, businesses have the power to shape the direction of the EV market. In other words, if employees don’t decide it themselves, businesses may make the decisions for them.
According to an EY study, “fleet electrification should lead the way and will make the biggest and fastest contribution to the decarbonization of road transport.” This creates significant opportunities for businesses to get ahead in the electric mobility ecosystem.
In line with this, many large organizations are stepping up their commitments to EVs. For example, in the US, over 50 large companies have already announced their intentions to go electric including Amazon, Walmart, General Motors, and FedEx.
With more and more employees of large companies having electric experiences in company vehicles, this “new normal” will further influence employees attitudes and demands. Furthermore, by purchasing EVs first, businesses are driving forward economies of scale that can drive the prices down and make electric vehicles affordable for everyone.
One of the essential pieces of this puzzle is charging infrastructure. As this new normal materializes, charging stations will be a defining factor of whether or not employees have positive interaction with electric mobility. By making charging as accessible as possible, you’re actively preparing yourself for this
Whether your business is an owner-occupier, a corporate real estate agent or an office leaser, EVs can help increase your office’s reputation as a great place to work.
EV chargers stand out. Regardless of whether your employees or customers are driving an EV, they will undoubtedly take notice. Among the general public, six out of ten people say that reducing CO2 emissions in transportation is important to them. What’s more, 88 percent of customers want organizations to help them improve their environmental and social footprint. Together these two factors point to one simple reality: Your office’s reputation is becoming more tied to its sustainability offering.
Offering charging facilities to your customers and clients on your premises shows your company is choosing to take sustainable action. It’s one piece of the puzzle but it’s one that’s more obvious for visitors than building certifications like LEED or BREEAM or rooftop solar panels.
For forward-thinking businesses and facility managers, introducing EV chargers doesn’t just have to be about sustainability or their business’s reputation.
In fact, many real estate businesses are creating a whole new revenue stream from EV charging. By adding public EV charging, businesses can increase their existing revenue from their assets as well as attract new customers and cross-sell additional goods or services.
With innovative new charging technology often referred to as smart charging, businesses can control who has access to their stations, set their own charging prices, and even grant users access to charging management platforms based on their needs and their responsibilities.
For example, you could use a blanket strategy where everyone pays the same rate or a stratified approach where some guests (i.e., office workers) pay less than others.
Finally, EV charging stations also put your offices on maps like Google Maps or Waze. By having charging stations at your site, you can boost your brand visibility on these platforms and attract new customers.
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