Last Thursday (27.3) I was passing through the center of Tel-Aviv which was in the midst of preparations for “Earth Hour Tel-Aviv“. If you missed the much-publicized blackout – when cities around the world turned off the lights in homes and offices to inspire action regarding climate change – I can tell you that the view (as seen on TV) was astounding.
The Earth Hour campaign video
The “Earth Hour” campaign is very popular. However what I was thinking about while watching the lights go out in Tel Aviv – “the city that never sleeps” – was that “going green” doesn’t just do justice to the environment but it also saves money and make businesses reach a higher level of effectiveness. Due to the appearance of a green piece in the RADVISION logo (not to be confused with GreenPeace), perhaps I need to elaborate on the “green” aspects of video conferencing.
At a Telepresence conference two weeks ago, a speaker from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) highlighted the “green” aspects of this technology. Video conferencing allows businessmen to travel less, resulting in fewer airline flights and less carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. It also saves on time wasted during travel and offers users the ability to hold meetings more frequently. Additionally video conferencing reduces the need to separate parents and their families during their numerous business trips.
A good example of a “green” technology pioneer is Cisco, the networking giant and one of the market leaders of video conferencing. Cisco’s CEO John Chambers announced a few months ago that the company has slashed $150M off corporate travel costs by using videoconferencing technologies.
Chambers, an exceptional speaker, participated in a virtual panel a few weeks ago during VoiceCon 2008 in Orlando, Florida. There he discussed the role of technology in environmental matters, alongside former US Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore.
The virtual panel was held – obviously – using Cisco’s Telepresence equipment: Al Gore spoke from a conference room near his home in Nashville, Tennessee while Chambers participated from the Cisco headquarters in San Jose, California; The moderator of the event was sitting in London and the audience was watching the panel from a crowded exhibition hall in Orlando, as well as in other various locations around the world.
The user-friendliness and the high quality features of this multi-location panel emphasized the basic idea behind the event: video conferencing can help people collaborate without being in close proximity – an essential pre-requisite during a time of climate change.
Gore said he is exploring ways to use video conferencing in international deliberations to establish global carbon regulations to follow the Kyoto Protocol treaty, which expires in 2012. Gore, who last year joined a Silicon Valley VC firm focusing on “green tech”, noted that “corporations are actually ahead of governments” in addressing climate change in “concrete ways.”
Chambers said, in that same panel, that business managers and government leaders are trying to reconcile economical growth with environmental stewardship. “Environment is not just hitting radar screens”, he noted, “but they also know that this is feasible with economic growth”. Cisco’s Chief Marketing Officer, Susan Bostrom, who also participated in the panel, said that video conferencing technologies in Cisco offices “saved about $100M in travel expenses and eliminated about 15 million cubic tons of carbon emissions.”
Still, one can argue that businesses would not necessarily go green “just” to save the environment. The motivations will probably stem from more “selfish” considerations. A recent Brockmann & Company report, for example, concluded that going “green” is strongly linked with higher business performance. Now THAT would surely interest any decision maker in any business.
According to the report, “green” businesses are considered to be top performers, gaining more customer satisfaction, enjoying more employee satisfaction and even gaining more revenue per employee. Brockmann & Co. note that video conferencing is “the most significant variable influencing the study’s result”.
Brockmann & Co. argue that the reliability, accessibility and the quality of video conferencing allows businesses to leave business travel to the discretion of employees, who should consider whether travel is indeed the most effective use of their time and of company resources. The study recommends enterprises upgrade their use of high definition video technologies, broaden the scope of their energy reduction initiatives and integrate recycling initiatives.
Yes, you got that right – video technologies are considered “green tech“, just like recycling and reducing energy consumption. It is all to clear that video conferencing technologies alone will not save the environment, but unlike “Earth Hour”, “Earth Day” and other highly publicized “green” events, they offer a viable, cost-effective means, towards a solution.