UC Should Embrace Climate Change

by Dave Michels

There is no such thing as “Global Warming.” It is called “climate change,” and unfortunately it is a political hot potato. It shouldn’t be, but this positions on the issue seems to fall along party lines. Most businesses avoid taking public positions on such topics. A political stance runs the risk of alienating and losing (half the) customers.

But rules are changing, and despite such wisdom there is merit to embracing climate change. UC technologies facilitate communications across distributed teams and can reduce the need to travel – both long (jet travel) and short distances (commuting). Here’s some facts about the climate debates.

  • The climate is getting warmer. This is causing some severe weather changes – not local cycles, but global changes.
  • Atmospheric carbon has been increasing steadily for some time. Back in the 60s, it was predicted that 350 ppm was the maximum the planet could handle without major shifts. We are currently at 400 ppm – higher than ever in the history of our species.
  • Oceans are warming and acidifying
  • Climate changes are causing chain reactions that accelerate rising carbon
  • The seas are rising, faster than predicted.

There is no debate if the planet is warming, the debate is if it is human caused. People have strong opinions on this, but it’s too complex for most of us to understand. It was said nicely in the past State of the Union address: “I’m not a scientist. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities, and the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate.”

Because of disagreement on the cause, no discussions are taking place on solutions or mitigation. Since the leading explanation of climate change is carbon, then reducing carbon emissions makes sense. The great news is reducing travel and promoting teleworking are natural benefits of UC. ROI is nice, but food supply is better.

There isn’t much downside to reducing travel. I recently learned about Unilever through Dimension Data. In 2007, Unilever adopted a greenhouse gas strategy, covering both direct and indirect impacts, and set out that we will seek to:

  • Build on existing reductions to cut carbon dioxide from energy in our manufacturing operations by 25% by 2012
  • Improve the footprint of our existing product portfolio using our new vitality metric
  • Assess innovations using our greenhouse gas profiling tool
  • Work with our customers and suppliers to address our wider impacts

Dimension Data, as an IT solution provider, helped Unilever reduce its carbon footprint with Video Conferencing.

We have also adopted IT-related measures such as consolidation of data centres, energy reduction targets, new procurement guidelines, and recycling and reuse of equipment, helping us save over €6 million a year in Europe by 2010. Recently-installed advanced video-conferencing facilities have already reduced our footprint by an estimated 1 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide, saving €5 million in travel costs.

The UC industry should champion climate change.It isn’t often that IT folks get to save the planet – this is one of those times. I suspect there are many more organizations (and employees) that will be happy to participate in saving the world by reducing travel.

Unilever signed a $50 million hosted video conferencing contract with DiData and is striving to be the greenest company on the planet.