Bell pitches green benefits of conferencing

Bell Canada has launched two new tools that it hopes will help IT managers get on board with teleconferencing and assist in promoting the greening of IT within the enterprise.

The Smart Meeting Guide shows how virtual meetings can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut travel costs. While the guide indicates that face-to-face meetings are useful for project launches, new business relationships, important announcements, and recognition events; it encourages organizations to consider teleconferencing for such meeting involving on-going projects, updates, information sessions, training, and regular team or company gatherings. It also advises organizations to measure factors such as CO2 emissions, cost, work-life balance, and efficiency, when coming up with a plan to implement audio, Web or videoconferencing.

“What we’re seeing right now working with a number of enterprise clients and governments is they’re very interested in pursuing the analysis on how an increased use of these technologies can help them reduce their carbon footprint,” Marc Duchesne, director of corporate responsibility and environment at Bell, said. “At the same time, these companies want to look at a number of social and environmental benefits including the issue of work-life balance. So the guide is a good idea in just demonstrating to people how a small change in their habits can sometimes go a long way.”

Related to the guide, is the Green Meeting Calculator, which allows users to calculate just how much greenhouse gas emissions can be cut using virtual meeting technologies. For instance, to fly eight company executives to a meeting from Montreal to Toronto would cause the emission of almost 1,200 kg of GHG, which is the equivalent of the yearly energy consumption of 48 laptop computers. Flying those same executives to San Francisco would cause the emission of 3,000 kg of GHG or 489 average return car trips to get to work.

“Along with the guide, this tool gives you an appreciation of the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions and, especially for large meetings, how significant it can be,” Duchesne said. “This will help quantify the environmental costs and provide feedback on the benefits of increased use with teleconferencing.”

And while the tools itself were built mostly to promote smart meeting choices, Duchesne said they could be the first step for IT managers in creating a convincing business case for green IT using videoconferencing to their organizations.

“To build a business case you have to take into consideration the financial aspects, productivity aspects, and depending on your policy, the environmental aspects,” Duchesne said. “So these tools can help with that part of the equation. And for the financial and productivity aspects, we recommend getting consultation on an individual, company by company basis.”

Roberta Fox, senior partner with the Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group said that, much like HP’s strategy with the Halo conferencing tool, Bell is on the right track linking teleconferencing to today’s environmental concerns. She said that while enterprise video conferencing solutions have been around for over 20 years, the uptake has been relatively poor.

“Using the environmental hook is a wise move because it makes companies look at it in a more personal and emotional decision rather than just a pure business decision,” Fox said. “This is especially relevant with the next generation coming up into the workplace. My niece and nephews are very environmentally conscious and aware and they make a lot of their decisions based on the environmental impact.”

As for Bell’s smart meeting tools, Fox said anything that quantifies the environmental benefits of technology can be effective for IT managers. To further promote greening movements within the company, she said, IT managers can add combined travel time to the greenhouse gas reading and present an even more compelling reason to put these technologies into use. Microsoft Office Live Meeting and WebEX video conferencing are two of the more popular video and Web conferencing tools as cited by Fox.

And according to Duchesne, the principles behind these tools have been used internally for years. Bell said its customers and employees held 2.53 million teleconferences in 2006, saving an estimated 1.7 million tones of greenhouse gas emissions – equal to the annual emissions of 344,000 cars.