Unified Communications can help reduce CO2?


I last wrote to you about taking a journey, a journey in to the world of Unified Communications and some of the pitfalls that can befall the unwary. I’d like to continue on the topic of journeys with Unified Communications, but this time with an emphasis on reducing unnecessary travel, reducing your company’s travel costs and reducing the cost to our environment in the form of CO2 emissions.

Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, is one of the primary causes of global warming and the greenhouse effect. No one can deny that our planet is warming, that we have to act before it’s too late and UC technology, with video in particular, allows us to do this.

The sad thing is that people just don’t seem to want to adjust !

Only last month I was left in total disbelief at the lack of thought in protecting our environment, reducing company costs and making life easier for employees. The situation arose when I had to arrange a workshop in order to thrash out a design for a customer project. The team would be eight strong from Orange, four based in Europe, four in the UK and then a further three people from the UK based customer. Now, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to utilise our Telepresence suites in the Orange offices, not only to reduce costs, reduce our CO2 footprint, save on time spent travelling, but also showcase the very technology that we design and install.

Brilliant, I thought!    How wrong was I?

The powers that be wanted a face to face meeting. No matter how much I tried, I could not persuade them to run a virtual workshop. So, everyone travelled by car or by plane, hotels were booked and the meeting went ahead.

But what could have been saved, what difference could we have made if we had utilised the technology that is now so readily available?

So I thought I’d look in to it and the results were quite staggering –

Aircraft produce many pollutants during flight with one of the most significant being CO2. A high percentage of the fuel used is during take-off so the amount of CO2, averaged per mile, is significantly affected by the length of the flight. There is also a multiplying factor of 2.7 applied when long distance flights travel at altitude as the emissions have a greater effect on the atmosphere at this height. The CO2 emission calculator I used is based on emission factors provided by UK DEFRA for both short and long haul flights. The calculations used are based on data from the UK and based on the assumption that the aircraft is fully occupied. If you would like to look at your company savings as a whole, Orange has done a lot of the work for you here.

If we look at the costs and CO2 that could have been saved by staff if we had used Telepresence and not physically attending the meeting, it breaks down something like this:

  • Four Staff travelling from Paris – Flights/taxis                                418.3Kg CO2
  • Four Staff travelling from Paris – Hotels/meals/etc                         £ 2916
  • Four Staff travelling from Paris – time away                                   2 days

Now, those sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed that only those travelling from abroad are shown above. Well this is because, even when using conferencing, the local staff and the customer would still have to travel to a location that had the required facilities, so we don’t save on those costs.

So through the use of Telepresence, we could have saved nearly £3000 and 418kgs of CO2 in one day alone and saved four of our staff having to spend a night away from home. Now, this might not seem much, but think about it this way – how much would you save if this was an International meeting and how often could you make such savings based on the number of meetings that your company has, either internal or external?

You’re right, Telepresence, or immersive video-conferencing, is expensive to install and does require significant bandwidth and thus additional cost. However, the ROI can be achieved quickly, especially if a large amount of International travelling is involved.

 As an example: Cisco themselves take advantage of conference rooms around the world at a utilization rate of 55%. About 30% of these meetings avoid costly travel, and Cisco estimates that it has avoided more than US$90 million in travel costs through the first half of 2010. Perhaps more importantly, Cisco employees have been able to meet with each other, and with partners and customers, at times and places when they would never have been able to work together before.

There are only 1.2 million video-endpoints in the world today, not as many as you think, but how many are used effectively and how many more should be out there, saving money, fossil fuels and reducing CO2.

Let me leave you with this thought  –  a single person travelling across the Atlantic uses approximately 615 kgs of CO2.  How long can we keep doing this?


Nicolas Jacquey
chris habberjam

Chris is an experienced IT professional, specializing in voice communications. His favourite areas are around IPT and Unified Communications.