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June 17, 2010

Telepresence Reduces Emissions While Providing Financial Benefits
    by Robert Kropp

A study by the Carbon Disclosure Project finds that travel substitution through video communications technology could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2020, while saving $19 billion.

SocialFunds.com -- “Work is an activity, not a place,” says CEO Randall Stephenson of AT&T, the company that sponsored a recent study commissioned by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) of the financial and environmental benefits of business travel substitution through video communications, or telepresence. The study was produced by Verdantix, a research firm that advises corporations on climate change and sustainability initiatives.

In his foreword to the study, Paul Dickinson, the CEO of the CDP, wrote, “It is vital that government and industry throughout the world accept this historic challenge to proliferate a credible alternative to business travel as quickly as possible.”

Furthermore, Dickinson continued, the study “proves that responding to climate change issues will…fuel the engine of growth.”

The study, entitled
The Telepresence Revolution, uses interviews with executives of 15 Global 500 firms that were early adopters to project the financial benefits and emissions reductions of telepresence for companies with $1 billion or more in annual revenue. The CDP study builds upon a 2008 SMART 2020 report, which found that Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) solutions could reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15% by 2020.

According to the CDP study, “US and UK businesses with annual revenues of more than $1 billion can cut nearly 5.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2020 as a result of deploying a total of almost 10,000 telepresence units.”

“These reductions,” the study continued, “Are equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from over one million passenger vehicles.”

The financial benefits to those companies would be significant as well, amounting to almost $19 billion by 2020. Furthermore, adoption of telepresence delivers a return on investment (ROI) in as little as 15 months, and could lead to “increased employee productivity, better work-life balance and faster decision making” as well, according to the study.

Recommendations provided by the study include establishing a corporate policy for telepresence utilization, raising awareness through such enticements as travel reductions in the quarterly goals of executives, and monitoring and in-depth reporting.

Dickinson of the CDP stated, “Telepresence is a good example of a low-carbon solution that can bring financial savings and increase productivity while reducing emissions.”

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