The Sustainable Future of Work


The way we work and live has changed dramatically over the last 200 years. We are now at an exciting junction where Industrial Age working practices cohabit with new Information Age work patterns. As the Information Revolution unfolds an increasing number of networked individuals and self-employed entrepreneurs are shunning traditional organisations which are regarded as hierarchical and unwieldy. The current revolution is concentrating on a decade change which spread over a century last time. Some of the key issues pushing this tsunami of change are flexible/smart working and an increasing demand for work/life balance and job satisfaction. COVID-19 and climate change have undoubtedly accelerated that societal and economic tectonic shift.

The drivers of change & Megatrends

Sustainable future of work

Megatrends: massive cultural shifts that unfold in real time.

Drivers of change: massive cultural and social forces that drive change and create trends.

The trend towards sustainability is an integral part of the emerging modern workplace. This shift is permeating all industries and is driven by governments, regulators and the financial community in order to meet global sustainability commitments. Critically it is also driven by a strong desire from key stakeholders, like employees and customers, for socially equitable, environmentally responsible and economically viable businesses, services and products. The last two decades have seen a surge in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) green initiatives which introduced energy efficiency, waste and water consumption management as well as sustainable procurement practices in the workplace. Building on these CSR objectives, we are now seeing science-based sustainability policies and targets driving the corporate agendas through innovation and business models redesign. 

Sustainability and new ways of working trends

Sustainability is a comprehensive approach to the management of organisations which is focused on creating and maximising long-term economic, social and environmental value. This includes many aspects of behavioural, technological, organisational, and cultural transformation that enables us all to move into a more balanced, fair and prosperous future.

The UN believes 14 of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals can be solved or advanced through remote work. Living and working in a sustainable way is more than just good business. It can impact everything from socioeconomics to diversity to climate issues. A recent report, Future of Workplace Sustainability Report sheds light on how sustainability, climate change and COVID-19 are shaping the future of the workplace. Critically, it provides insights into employees’ expectations on global sustainability. The findings send a clear message to companies: 


Workers believe

that their company is not doing enough to fight climate change


are more likely

to work for a company with strong environmental policies


are concerned

about environmental ethics


Workers saids

their company’s environmental values are either not aligned or only partially aligned with their own


Would like

to learn more sustainability skills to become more valuable in the workplace

Smart companies as agents of change

Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, carbon reduction, mitigation and the cultural change needed to achieve the 1.5-2 degrees targets has become a priority for many organisations. Indeed fighting climate change and achieving net zero by 2050, requires multi-pronged approaches from a variety of stakeholders. Corporates are major agents of change and are expected to contribute by mitigating their impacts along their value change with the support of technology and organisational cultural change. They are urged to show vision in front of new types of jobs and the required skill sets for the sustainable transition, ways to work more flexibly to suit new lifestyles and adapt workplace culture and leadership accordingly.

Technology is a great enabler of sustainability, as it allows for efficiency gains and new, cleaner ways of doing things. The internet of things, automation, AI, digital platforms and distributed workforces – all have the potential to radically increase efficiency, change work practices and enable new business models across all sectors.

Drivers of change

sustainable future of work

The New Leaders

The required new breed of leader sees climate action and sustainability initiatives as not only the right thing to do, but also as a generator of competitive advantage and economic benefits through customer satisfaction, employee retention and risk mitigation. This new leadership demonstrates integrity, social and emotional intelligence, systems-wide outlook and courage to go beyond the profits-and-losses mindset. These leaders seek out sustainability-trained employees and elevate chief sustainability officers to board level influence and decision making.


From changes in the work week to location and work practices flexibility, the underlying trend is that employees want to work for companies that value people and the planet beyond profits. Studies by Deloitte and McKinsey show that Generation Z and Millennials are concerned about environmental issues and want to work for value-driven companies and also seek them out as customers. As Millennials start to take over from Baby Boomers in the workplace, corporations need to increasingly cater for their purpose-driven key stakeholders if they want to remain in business.

sustainable future of work

What are the ESG benefits of emerging new ways of working?

Economic and social fairness:

When employees are technology and geographically distributed, so is their impact on communities, innovation and the global economy. Increasingly local authorities (and even entire countries) are luring expats with incentives in order to address issues like low population, a dwindling economy or dilapidated properties. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to ‘Zoom towns’ as many employers are now making remote work the new normal.

Environmental impacts:

Remote jobs create less waste and fewer commutes, which means smaller carbon footprints. Some environmental gains resulting from remote work include 3.2 metric tons of carbon emissions and 313 gallons (1422,93 liters) of gasoline savings per remote worker in a year. 

Diversity and Inclusiveness:

In person management methods are limited in distributed teams, therefore remote-friendly companies often use results-based tracking models to measure the performance of their employees. As a result, traditional discriminatory biases like race, age, gender might be reduced or eliminated in virtual workplaces

Work-Life Satisfaction:

Fewer commutes to the office often result in lower stress levels, stronger family bonds, healthier lifestyles, reduced traffic congestion and stronger job satisfaction. With flexible schedules, local residents have more time and resources to contribute to their local communities and might become active participants in enhancing the wellbeing of neighbourhoods and families.

Twitter, Fujitsu, Microsoft, Spotify and PWC are just a few companies that are undergoing their sustainable transformation and have implemented flexibility – work from home or hybrid – policies. Just like them, many more are seeing the benefits of reducing the footprint of costly office spaces. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the sustainability demands that this decade will bring, but the inescapable reality is that all organisations must rethink their strategy to remain relevant to their stakeholders.


Thomson, Peter. “New Ways of Working in the Company of the Future.” In Reinventing the Company in the Digital Age. Madrid: BBVA, 2014.

Smith, J. ¨The future of the workplace will be shaped by sustainability.¨  In Insight, 2020.

¨Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)¨ – Response to the challenges of the modern world in Deloitte, Solutions

Afshar, V. ¨Virtual Work enables a more sustainable future¨  In Coronavirus: Business and Technology in a pandemic. ZDNet, 2020.

Farrer, L. ¨Remote to the rescue: how virtual jobs are saving the world¨.  Forbes, 2020.

Aumre, G. ¨Zoom Towns – The Countries and States that will pay you to move there¨ In William Russell Blog, 2021.

Reuters ¨Work-from-home forever: PwC offers US employees full-time remote work.¨ In News24, 2021.

Kelly, J. ¨Spotify will let employess work from anywhere they do their ’Best thinking and creating’¨. In Forbes, 2021.


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