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Ecology Law Quarterly

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climate change, private governance, working from home, informational regulation, greenhouse gas reporting


Environmental Law | Law | Law and Economics


The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of employees working from home, a development that is challenging public and private standards for reporting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under these standards, corporations disclose the emissions from large buildings and the power plants that supply them with energy, but most do not report other types of emissions. When employees shift from working at an office to working at home, the corporate emissions appear to have decreased even though they have simply shifted beyond the boundary of the reporting requirement. This move creates greenwashing risks--the ability to claim that corporate greenhouse gas emissions have declined when they have just shifted to non-reporting sources-- and undermines incentives for corporations to induce employees to reduce emissions. Although the working-from-home transition has been underway for some time, it accelerated dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it may lead to permanent shifts in the workplace for millions of employees. Using an efficiency and justice lens, this Article examines the standards regarding working-from-home emissions and concludes that undercounting could occur, could unfairly burden workers, and could increase net emissions. The Article proposes changes in emissions reporting standards to address these concerns, including amending or interpreting the standards to require employers to account for employee working-from-home-related emissions in corporate emissions reports. The Article focuses on greenhouse gas emissions, but it has implications for other types of emissions, worker health and safety, taxation, and other fields that have been affected by the working-from-home transition.



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