Cisco Leverages TelePresence to Cut Emissions by 45 Percent

SAN JOSE, CA — [Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article noted overall emissions reductions of 45 percent; the reductions are to Cisco's Scope 3 air-travel emissions instead.]

If ever there was a company that would showcase the benefits of virtual meeting technologies, it would be Cisco, the owners of TelePresence and WebEx, among other virtual-workforce technologies.

The company's just-published CSR report for 2010 paints a vivid picture of just how big an impact a broad and deep commitment to virtual meetings can have on a carbon footprint.

Two years after setting a goal to reduce emissions by 25 percent over a 2007 baseline, the company has reduced its emissions from air travel by 45 percent absolute -- two years earlier than the 2012 deadline. At the same time, it has also cut its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 12 percent.

Cisco achieved these numbers by putting virtual meetings and virtual offices front and center in its business strategy, cutting travel costs, meeting costs and office costs.

There are more than 800 TelePresence units in conference rooms and offices around the world, allowing Cisco employees to meet with co-workers and customers remotely.

And 20,000 of Cisco's employees -- almost a third of the company's 70,000 employees -- are telecommuting at least one day per week using Cisco Virtual Office to connect to the network and fellow employees remotely.

All these adoptions add up to over 19 million people-hours of time spent in virtual meetings or offices in 2010, and significant cuts in the company's carbon impacts.

Cisco has worked on more than just its remote-working impacts, of course. The company is saving at least $24 million a year in reduced packaging costs, as we reported earlier in 2010. And Cisco has rolled out a number of new energy management products, focused on trimming the energy used by everything from network systems to an entire building portfolio.

All these innovations have made the company a leader in "IT for green" -- applying technological solutions to the environmental impacts beyond a company's computers and data centers. In April, Cisco landed in the top spot of Greenpeace's "Cool IT" rankings.