David Suzuki Foundation reduces carbon footprint with TelePresence
As an organization that communicates the necessity of balancing human needs and
the Earth’s ability to sustain all life, the David Suzuki Foundation turned
to videoconferencing as a key in its own sustainability efforts.
In 2010, the Vancouver-based environmental organization, which was co-founded by
Canadian science broadcaster and environmental activist David Suzuki, installed
Cisco TelePresence equipment in all its offices in order to minimize travel to conferences,
training sessions and other functions where possible. It is part of the organization’s
commitment toward carbon neutrality in its offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
The Cisco TelePresence suites incorporate high-end HD videoconference solutions
to create a productive face-to-face collaboration between individuals over the network.
In addition, all the foundation’s TelePresence suites are equipped to connect
through Cisco WebEx to any video-enabled desktop for lower-quality videoconferences
Telepresence has allowed the non-profit organization to maintain a feeling of one-on-one
interaction when not travelling to—or due to travel restrictions unable to—attend
a meeting locally, says Calvin Jang, IT manager the Foundation.
“We are basically a communications organization, so the feeling of being together
and engaged that comes from a high-end teleconference suite is important to us,”
he adds. “A lot of communication isn’t just verbal, there’s a
lot of facial and subtle communications and TelePresence units allow us that.”
Last year the TelePresence system helped the Foundation reduce carbon emissions
related to travel from 110.63 metric tonnes to 85.73 metric tonnes. The TelePresence
suites were not fully deployed for the 2010 fiscal year, and Jang says that further
improvements are likely over the next year, now that they are fully operational.
Beyond ‘green’ efforts and time savings, the TelePresence suites used
by the Foundation afford further benefits. Jang notes that videoconferencing is
a net benefit to employee lifestyle.
“Everyone is better and more productive in their own office, in their own
time zone and in their own environment,” he says, adding that the suites have
also allowed the organization to improve interoffice meetings that would’ve
previously been limited to audio.
Suzuki himself is a major proponent of videoconferencing, and has stated that he
would prefer to appear solely by videoconference. “He is a huge advocate of
this technology. In the past David needed to travel to all ends of the Earth, all
the time. Not only does it wear on him, but he understands the implication of travel.
“I can’t think of more fulfilling use for our Cisco TelePresence technology
than helping Canada’s greenest citizen be even greener,” said Jeff Seifert,
CTO, Cisco Canada. “TelePresence has changed how we work at Cisco and it’s
very satisfying to see environmental and corporate leaders around the world embracing
the many benefits of this technology.”
The next stage in the David Suzuki Foundation’s video efforts is to use the
suites as interactive broadcast tools in furthering its messages of clean energy
and sustainability. In 2011, the suites will be used to connect with schools for
both one-way broadcast and two-way interactions. Recorded video from these presentations
can then be shared via the organization’s site or social media, Jang says.
In this way, videoconferencing is further fostering learning and dialogue.
“We want to become an organization where we don't talk to people, but talk with
people. Videoconferencing lets us do that."