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Friday, June 27, 2008

Do we really need another report on the impact of ICTs on the environment ?

The Climate Group has just published a report on the impact of ICT on the environment called SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age. In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that while it was produced with BT’s involvement, I was not personally involved. The report quantifies and compares the carbon burden of the ICT industry with the opportunity of ICT services to abate the wider emissions of society.

Past analyses looking at individual services like tele-conferencing or wireless sensor networks, for example, have identified benefits of 50-fold and sometimes even more (eg, carbon emissions of flying compared to emissions of a tele-conference). But these approaches tend to take a micro view and often fail to take into account an allocation of the ICT infrastructure that needs to be in place to enable the particular example. A macro view is far more valuable.

Among the macro level reports, ETNO’s Speed of Light paper covers Europe. It is a pretty simple analysis to understand and identify a 10-fold benefit. ACEEE’s ICTs: The Power of Productivity, produced in February 08, covers the USA and concluded a 6-to 14-fold benefit.

What the SMART 2020 report adds to the picture is a more comprehensive approach and an attempt to tackle the question on a global basis (and so take account of emerging economies). The paper concludes that by 2020, ICT can drive abatement of 15% of global emissions, a 5-fold benefit compared to the calculated emissions burden of the sector.

So, SMART 2020 provides a more conservative view, which I think reflects the global angle. The impact of ICT on emissions remains a very new area with developing consensus on standards, boundaries of ownership, cause and effect. As these areas of understanding develop, our analyses will continue to evolve. I am sure we will see more papers on the topic, and I think they are needed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Successful Tele-Conferencing Adoption Strategies

I spoke today about implementing successful conferencing adoption strategies as part of a Climate Group webinar (to listen to my segment go to approximately :48 into the webinar). The focus was on ensuring reduction in travel-related emissions, and I came up with the following 10-point checklist of components of a successful strategy based on a range of customer audio, web and video implementations:

Demonstrate ownership and commitment

1) Senior management adoption - through both a senior sponsor and adoption of conferencing by senior management
2) Own badged - have all components of the service badged in your company name to demonstrate ownership

Provide framework for engagement

3) Provide context for engagement and report against it - report emissions avoided in the context of an overall company emissions reduction objective
4) Cap travel or emissions budgets - at least measure, or possibly cap, travel budget and add a carbon charge to internal budgets or set emissions budgets

Educate and communicate

5) Support transition with tutorials on how to set up conferences and how to conduct a successful conference call. Required behaviors are different from face-to-face meetings.
6) Ongoing targeted communication - customized to the user type (non-user, novice, experienced, expert)
7) Expound all the benefits - don’t just rely on emissions reduction; communicate all the benefits - cost reduction, faster decision making, work/life balance, improved productivity

Ensure service is easy to use

8) Reservation-less
9) Non-technical
10) Integrated

Monday, June 23, 2008

Climate Group Webinar on Reducing Business Travel Emissions

I am speaking at a one hour webinar on Reducing Business Travel Emissions being held by The Climate Group this coming Wednesday June 25th at 11:30 EST.

The seminar will cover the findings from the recently published WWF-UK report Traveling Light the latest thinking on short-, middle- and longer-term issues facing business travel and how business travel might change in the future, presented by Paul Tilstone, Institute of Travel Management, Project Icarus; and the technology solutions available to help measure, manage & reduce business travel, presented by Cisco. I will be presenting on how businesses have developed and implemented successful travel management strategies.

This event is open only to members of the Climate Group but, if you mention this blog, there are a few additional places available. Please RSVP to Doreen Reid,, or call +1 510-251-2823.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

NXTcomm - Focus on the Environment

I spoke at NXTcomm 08 yesterday.

The topics at NXTcomm reflect the important trends and issues in the telco sector. Almost exactly one year ago I was due to speak on a panel about sustainability opportunities in the ICT sector at a telecom event in Northern Virginia. It was cancelled due to low registrations. But here we are year later and NXTcomm 08 had a panel in the main conference "Environmental Efficiencies - Thinking Beyond the Bottom Line", a 'Green Village' in the middle of the exhibition hall and a conference with the conference "Communications Goes Green". I see this as a significant step change in recognition in the sector of both the need to act and the business benefits of taking action.

Dawn Bushaus from Telephony Magazine put together a great overview of the state of the industry in a report entitled 'Telecom's Green Future' for the conference's daily news.

I spoke on the main conference panel "Environmental Efficiencies - Thinking Beyond the Bottom Line". The panel included speakers from Eltek Valere, Juniper and Insight Research Company. A common theme was the extent to which industry standards would help ensure apples to apples comparison of the energy efficiency of different products and services. The range of different organizations working on such standards became evident as did the complexity of the industry -- from providers of infrastructure components, software, router and switch providers, network and data center operators through to service providers like BT. It is quite conceivable that different standards would be required at each level.

Friday, June 13, 2008

RFID: A Double-Edged Sword in Sustainability

Implementing a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solution enables a much greater level of control over a materials distribution operation, but that can be a double-edged sword when it comes to carbon emissions. The trick to success is in defining the correct design criteria up front.

Imagine designing a food distribution solution for a supermarket chain using RFID to manage the delivery of crates of fresh produce. An effective RFID implementation enables enhanced control and management. That permits smaller, more frequent, deliveries, which puts fresher food on the shelves (good for the consumer), in quantities that accurately reflect demand and thus also reduces waste due to spoiled produce (good for sustainability).

The additional control also enables the distributor to manage a larger fleet of smaller vehicles. On a like-for-like basis, I believe that larger vehicles, fully-loaded, are more carbon-efficient per pound of food delivered (please keep me honest on this), so this solution has increased emissions.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The secret is to include carbon emissions as a design criteria up front and not leave it as an afterthought. Solutions can be identified that meet both the traditional design criteria of reducing cost and improving service at the same time as addressing sustainability concerns. But only if all criteria are considered up front.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Greener Future for Conferences

Last week, I spoke on the plenary panel of the Green Business Summit of the Wharton DC Club. In response to a question from the audience, keynote speaker Kathleen Matthews, executive vice president for Marriott International, outlined some ideas about the role of the hotel industry in greener conferences of the future.

I am part of a team organizing a conference for the British-American Business Association in Washington, DC, in April 2009, and we have been grappling with the appropriate steps to take to ‘green’ a conference. The steps one can take seem to be overwhelmed by the emissions from the number of people who are going to travel long distances to attend.

One could envisage the conference of the future is not anchored to a single location. Instead, working with a hotel/conferencing organization that has incorporated an appropriate ICT infrastructure, one could offer participants two or three locations from which to attend the event, while preserving the ambiance of a conference. Each location would provide a sophisticated ‘presence’ type solution, consisting of a combination of conferencing and broadcast technologies.

Speakers and attendees alike could pick from whichever was their nearest location. Speakers and audience viewing and hearing each other would be replicated with large, appropriately-placed screens. The technology is fairly straightforward. The success factor is in a well thought-out operating model that makes it no more complex for the conference organizer to run the event than if it were all at a single location.

As an attendee, networking would be ‘in-person’ with people who had chosen to attend in your location. Harder to replicate, although not impossible, would be lining up to speak to a remote panelist privately after their session, and networking with attendees in other locations. But that might be a reasonable compromise for being able to attend the event without having to travel nearly so far.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Why Would you Aspire To a Carbon-Constrained Future?

One of the obstacles for individuals and corporations to taking action on climate change is the negative pictures that have been drawn of a carbon constrained future. Why strive for a future that looks so poor? Might as well enjoy the present.

A number of corporations are trying to address that barrier by painting positive views of what that future might look like – all include the role of ICT in reducing emissions and enhancing lifestyles. BT produced a paper in 2006 called, “What would a genuinely carbon neutral BT look like?” It includes a wonderful image of a grandmother in real time contact with her children and grandchildren halfway around the world through a “video mirror” hanging on the back of her front door.

IBM has also just produced a paper, “A day in a low-carbon life”. It uses the day of a corporate executive in 2012 as the narrative vehicle. ‘Tom’ drives through London much quicker now (so reducing congestion-based emissions) as a result of ICT-enabled congestion reduction initiatives.

And, last week, Duke Energy announced a Smart Grid initiative. It is underpinned with a range of ICT technologies. But rather than focus solely on the technology they have also sketched a picture of a future with better service, less outages, more control for the consumer and improved energy efficiency. It is a great overview of the potential of the Smart Grid.

Drawing rosy pictures of the future is no substitute for taking action and providing ‘here and now’ solutions. But, as an antidote to the resistance to take action and as a catalyst for thinking outside of the box, they should be welcomed and these three initiatives include much of that thinking to inspire new ideas.