Video Conferencing Can Save $19 Billion, 5.5 Million Tons of CO2

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Photo by Scottfeldstein via Flickr CC

A new report by by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and sponsored by AT&T; has revealed that videoconferencing can mean huge savings for companies, both in money and carbon footprints. According to the report, adding a telepresence to their repertoire can mean U.S. and U.K. businesses "cut CO2 emissions by nearly 5.5 million metric tons in total...and achieve total economy-wide financial benefits of almost $19 billion, by 2020." As businesses are forced to cut back drastically in both areas to survive the latest economic slump and get ready for stricter regulations in GHG emissions, we could see a big jump in the use of telecommunications instead of face-to-face meetings and cross-country flights. The report, titled "The Telepresence Revolution", concluded that along with helping to "speed decision-making, improve employee productivity, and provide workers with a better work-life balance," having a telepresence is a big boon for big businesses, specifically:

A business with $1 billion or more in annual revenue implementing four telepresence rooms could:
1. Achieve a financial return on investment in as little as 15 months;
2. Save nearly 900 business trips in the first year of using telepresence; and
3. Reduce emissions by 2,271 metric tons over five years--the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 434 passenger vehicles from the road for one year.

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Image via CDP

The numbers were determined after Verdantix, an independent analyst research firm, interviewed executives of 15 Global 500 firms that are early adopters of telepresence, and created a model to calculate ROI and carbon emissions reductions. While it is sponsored by AT&T;, a leader in communications, the study does underscore an important point - in today's world, it's easier and more acceptable than ever to link people together virtually.

Business Green points out, "As companies face increased pressure to cut carbon emissions and reduce travel budgets the technology has emerged as a major growth sector for a number of IT firms with AT&T;, Cisco, HP and others all battling it out to secure dominance of the emerging market."

Indeed we've seen a lot of great videoconferencing technology come out from these and other companies. And with the advent of "facetime" on the new iPhone 4, Skype integrated into new TVs, and other ways in which video talk time is embedding itself into our lives, videoconferencing will perhaps sometime soon be simply another part of doing business the easy, cheap, low-carbon way.

It's also not just a matter of making business easier, but implementing smart, simple methods for drastically cutting back footprints. We probably all know at least one person who flies for work far too much - say several times a month or even several times a week. Anyone savvy about environmental footprints knows that flights are one of the biggest chunks of a person's carbon footprint. So imaging businesses cutting back on how many flights they're sending their workers on? It really adds up.

"Companies that invest in carbon cutting technologies and re-engineer the way they do business will not only be better placed to succeed as we transition to a low-carbon economy but can experience considerable business benefits during this transition," said CDP chief executive officer Paul Dickinson. "Telepresence is a good example of a low-carbon solution that can bring financial savings and increase productivity while reducing emissions."

Some important examples came from some big-name early adopters in telepresence. FOr instance, Sak Nayagam, Head of Climate Change Solutions, Sustainability Services EALA at Accenture, said, "Since adopting telepresence, Accenture has expanded its network to include more than 50 telepresence rooms across the globe. The travel saved through their use would have accounted for 6,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions globally from November 2007 through August 2009."

And Zelda Bentham, senior environment manager of global insurance company Aviva, said, "We compared executives traveling from the nine months prior to telepresence with the nine months following implementation. From an air travel perspective, we observed a 25 percent carbon footprint reduction."

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