You know what blows my mind every time I drive down to San Jose or Palo Alto? The fact that it is so hard to get a reliable, clear cell phone signal on 101 or 280 in Silicon Valley. I mean, we’re talking about highways that run smack through the nerve-center of the US hi-tech sector. But, even so, looking back over the past decade I can’t help but be astounded by how advanced — and ubiquitous — teleconferencing and telecommuting have become, and what a positive impact this is having on the planet.
Take your pick –whether it’s web conferencing, video conferencing, or (the tried and true) audio conferencing –they all figure prominently into the mix as today’s businesses seek out ways to cut costs and reduce environmental impacts. These days, expensive and relatively low quality videoconferencing systems have been replaced with innovative technology that delivers cost savings, HD formats, and surround sound. And, there’s nothing “science-fiction” about it. Turn your company on to videoconferencing, and you’ll reap real-world cost and environmental benefits.
Case in point: Cisco. Last month Cisco announced its aggressive plan to cut GHG emissions by 25% over the next four years. A big part of the company’s strategy involves reducing business travel, which reportedly accounts for 27% of Cisco’s total GHG footprint. The company says videoconferencing technologies such as their own Cisco TelePresence will play a significant role in reaching their goal. In fact, according to their website, a year-full of two cross-country meetings per week using Cisco TelePresence would emit less carbon than a single in-person visit.
Recently, Deloitte also made headlines about videoconferencing. Deloitte announced that its global organization and as many as 130 member firm locations will be installing Nortel teleconferencing equipment. Based on Nortel’s calculations, a company that spends as much as $23 million annually on travel can use teleconferencing to save up to $7 million, while recovering as many as 385,000 hours of lost productivity and reducing its carbon footprint by up to 4,200 tons.
Big businesses aren’t the only ones benefiting. A poll by InterCall confirms that videoconferencing is growing in popularity with companies both large and small. Over 900 workers were asked what their companies are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. The top response (66%) was: using teleconferencing to cut back on travel. And, now that teleconferencing is being used more frequently, 72% of respondents in this poll said that they take zero to three business trips each year that require flying.
There’s no doubt that the movement toward sustainability is transforming the workplace. While some companies are adopting flexible office environments, others are turning a critical eye toward their data centers and/or supply chains. Many (if not most) businesses are implementing videoconferencing strategies, too. Taken altogether, it looks like we’re headed in the right direction… Now, if only my calls would stop dropping on 101 and 280.
(On a related note, last week’s New York Times reported that colleges and universities are seeing a dramatic increase in registration for online classes. Turns out, students can’t afford to commute, either. In some cases, enrollment for online courses is up over 100%.)