According to a new study of large companies using telepresence technology, U.S. and U.K. businesses that substitute some business travel with telepresence can cut CO2 emissions by nearly 5.5 million metric tons in total – the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing more than one million passenger vehicles from the road for one year – and achieve total economy-wide financial benefits of almost $19 billion, by 2020.
Telepresence is a rapidly growing and increasingly popular technology that enables groups of people to meet and collaborate in multiple locations worldwide while feeling as if they were all in the same room together.
The study, "The Telepresence Revolution," was commissioned by the Carbon Disclosure Project by AT&T*.
Other conclusions of the study determined a business with $1 billion or more in annual revenue implementing four telepresence rooms could:
- Achieve a financial return on investment in as little as 15 months;
- Save nearly 900 business trips in the first year of using telepresence; and
- Reduce emissions by 2,271 metric tons over five years—the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 434 passenger vehicles from the road for one year.
The study also revealed that telepresence technology can help speed decision-making, improve employee productivity, and provide workers with a better work-life balance.
The study was produced by Verdantix, an independent analyst research firm. Verdantix conducted in-depth interviews with executives of 15 Global 500 firms that are early adopters of telepresence – including Accenture, Aviva, EMC and Microsoft – and used the findings of those interviews to develop a new, detailed model to calculate the financial return on investment (ROI) and carbon reductions of telepresence. The model looks at projected telepresence adoption among companies with $1 billion or more in annual revenue and forecasts how the financial and carbon reduction benefits achieved by early adopters of telepresence would translate into economy-wide financial and environmental benefits in the U.S. and U.K. by 2020.
Carbon emission reductions among U.S. companies with annual revenues over $1 billion were forecast at approximately 4.6 million metric tons by 2020, the equivalent of removing more than 875,000 passenger vehicles from the road for one year. Among large U.K companies, carbon emission reductions by 2020 were forecast at approximately 940,000 metric tons, the equivalent of removing more than 179,000 passenger vehicles from the road for one year. Total economy wide financial benefits that could be generated by 2020 as a result of large companies using telepresence in place of some business travel were forecast at over $15 billion for the U.S. and almost $4 billion in the U.K.
“Companies that invest in carbon cutting technologies and re-engineer the way they do business will not only be better placed to succeed as we transition to a low-carbon economy but can experience considerable business benefits during this transition,” said CDP chief executive officer Paul Dickinson. “Telepresence is a good example of a low-carbon solution that can bring financial savings and increase productivity while reducing emissions.”
Daniel T. Walsh, senior vice president of marketing services, AT&T Business Solutions said, “Business customers have spoken and their feedback is very powerful: Telepresence helps companies run their businesses better while allowing them to reduce their carbon emissions.
“This, plus the dramatic and speedy return on investment suggested in the findings are prompting companies to embrace this game-changing technology,” he added. “Over the last year, AT&T has helped customers deploy hundreds of rooms globally, a trend that we expect will continue as companies start to reap the many benefits of telepresence usage.”
In addition to the industry forecasts, the report cited benefits of telepresence already achieved by companies participating in the survey:
- Sak Nayagam, head of climate change solutions, Sustainability Services EALA at Accenture, said, "Since adopting telepresence, Accenture has expanded its network to include more than 50 telepresence rooms across the globe. The travel saved through their use would have accounted for 6,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions globally from November 2007 through August 2009. For us, it is not so much about eliminating travel but travelling smarter and maximising the time and value of our workforce."
- Zelda Bentham, senior environment manager of global insurance company Aviva, said, “We compared executives travelling from the nine months prior to telepresence with the nine months following implementation. From an air travel perspective, we observed a 25 percent carbon footprint reduction.”
The study picks up where the “SMART 2020” report, a separate initiative authored by the Climate Group in 2008, left off. “SMART 2020” identified four key areas, including travel substitution, where greater use of the products and services from the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15% by 2020. To read more about the study, please visit: https://www.cdproject.net/telepresence-revolution.