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Validating the Environmental Benefits of Cisco TelePresence

Teleconferencing

Virtual meetings help Cisco reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

When Cisco developers began designing Cisco TelePresence, they envisioned reducing air and automobile travel and the associated carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as one benefit of the technology. Now used widely throughout Cisco, TelePresence allows employees to conduct virtual meetings with each other without traveling to the same physical location. However, given the electrical power consumed by TelePresence equipment, Cisco wanted to know the net impact of TelePresence on the environment.

Calculating a valid measurement of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions impact can be complicated. “To determine CO2e emissions, you need to consider both the reduction from avoided air and automobile travel, and the addition from the electricity used by the TelePresence systems and the network equipment for the duration of the TelePresence session,” says Joel Barbier, solutions manager for the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG). “We needed to find out whether the emissions reduction from avoided travel was negated by the equivalent emissions generated from the power use of TelePresence equipment, especially the plasma screen monitors.”

Working with a sustainability consulting firm, Cisco IBSG developed a methodology for calculating the CO2e emissions reductions realized from Cisco use of TelePresence. Applying the methodology to one meeting, Cisco CEO John Chambers’ quarterly executive operations review, illustrates the considerable environmental benefit of using Cisco TelePresence sessions to replace in-person meetings.

Executives Join the Meeting but Avoid the Long Flights

In the past, Cisco executives have flown from around the world to company headquarters in San Jose, California, for the multiday corporate operations review meeting, which Chambers leads. For the meeting held in June 2008, eight of the 98 attending executives stayed home and participated in the meeting through Cisco TelePresence (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Factors for calculating the emissions related to air travel for an in-person meeting compared to a Cisco TelePresence virtual meeting.

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The remote executives used TelePresence systems located at four Cisco sites in the United States, as well as India, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Two TelePresence systems were used by participants in the San Jose conference room, with all of the meeting connections carried over the Cisco network as a multipoint TelePresence session. Each of the remote TelePresence systems was active for an average of 16 hours over the span of the four-day meeting.

Positive Impact of One TelePresence Meeting

In the United States, the average per-capita GHG emissions in 2006 was 23.5 metric tons of CO2e per person. By using TelePresence for just this one meeting, Cisco conservatively estimates it offset more than 20 metric tons of CO2e emissions. This value was calculated as follows:

  • Adding the emissions saved from the air and automobile travel avoided by the remote executives. Cisco uses the industry-recognized TRX Airline Carbon Emissions Calculator to determine the emissions savings based on the mileage of each airline trip.
  • Subtracting the emissions produced by the average use of power and air conditioning by the TelePresence systems and network equipment.
  • Subtracting an estimated value for the emissions produced during manufacture, installation, and eventual disposal of the TelePresence and network equipment (called “embedded” emissions).

“The new data proves that the emissions reduced from avoided travel are far beyond the emissions produced by the use of Cisco TelePresence systems,” says Marthin DeBeer, senior vice president and general manager of the Cisco Emerging Technologies Group. “The result is a net benefit to the environment, which is an increasingly important consideration for our customers.”

As of June 2008, Cisco had scheduled 120,000 TelePresence meetings. Twenty thousand of these meetings enabled Cisco employees to avoid the time, cost, and emissions associated with travel. Cisco IT estimates that this travel reduction has avoided producing 47,000 metric tons of GHG emissions.

Part of Cisco Green Initiative

Cisco has made a major commitment to improving the company’s environmental footprint by reducing the GHG emissions that result from business operations. Part of this commitment is the Cisco Carbon to Collaboration initiative, which seeks to reduce employees’ overall carbon emissions by replacing air travel with virtual collaboration technologies, such as Cisco TelePresence, that operate over the Cisco network.

In a pilot program scheduled to begin in late 2008, Cisco employees will be able to use an automated tool for calculating GHG emissions to determine the environmental impact of travel plans, or to replace travel altogether with a Cisco TelePresence virtual meeting. The tool will also show users reports of the emissions related to their activities.

Cisco also plans to offer customers two calculators for identifying the emissions reductions achieved by using Cisco TelePresence: One calculator for specific TelePresence meetings and another calculator for the long-term environmental impact of a customer’s Cisco TelePresence investments.

For More Information

Cisco IT TelePresence Solutions
Cisco TelePresence Solutions
Cisco TelePresence Environmental Benefits
Cisco Carbon to Collaboration