Cisco’s approach to the environment, not surprisingly, focuses largely on optimizing communications in order to eliminate unnecessary travel and manage energy use more efficiently.
The company is a leading developer of network equipment such as switches and routers that link company computer networks together and enable communications to flow over telephone networks.
As such, Cisco believes information technology can change how the world approaches environmental challenges.
The company has developed computer networking products that allow workers to telecommute, rather than drive to central offices. They also allow far-flung employees who work out of different offices to collaborate on projects without having to book a flight and fly across the country, or indeed the world, for a meeting.
Cisco’s WebEx Meetings platform is one tool that allows employees – its own and those of its clients -- to meet online. The company has deployed a WebEx Carbon Calculator on its Web site that shows companies how much greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated by meeting virtually.
For example, Cisco says a 12-person work team can save 22,377 pounds of carbon dioxide by training online rather than flying roundtrip from Dallas to San Francisco.
Cisco’s suite of networking products to enable telecommuting and teleconferencing also helps companies make better use of their office space. With fewer employees in offices, companies can reduce their physical footprint, and by extension, their carbon footprint.
In fact, Cisco is taking its own advice and has re-organized some of its own offices to reflect changing work habits and reduce energy consumption.
The company found that traditionally assigned office space is empty about 65 percent of the time. At the same time, it recognized the highly mobile nature of its workforce, which uses laptops and cell phones to stay connected to the office. In response, the company eliminated dedicated workspaces in some of its offices. In doing so, the company reduced its need for infrastructure and with smaller offices, its power needs fell.
As computing has become central to home and office life, data centers have proliferated and their power requirements have grown apace. Indeed a key energy and financial demand on large corporations is managing the power needs of data centers and providing the corresponding cooling that’s necessary for proper data center operation.
Cisco works with information technology managers to create benchmarks for the efficiency of data center operations; measure and manage data-center power consumption; and identify underused and low-value infrastructure.
Another cornerstone of Cisco’s approach to the environment is its support of Smart Grid technology, which aims to reduce power consumption through better management of needs.
In the current grid that supplies power to companies and individuals, information flows in one direction. The “smart grid” movement envisions connecting the sources of power with the consumers of power in such a way that noncritical consumption ebbs when power demand is highest. Specifically it means there will be a two-way conversation between various entities, including the generating facility, the transmission substation, the commercial building, the homeowner and the manufacturing plant.
And when power consumption is at its highest, companies and individuals can decide that certain noncritical devices, which may run the gamut from the dishwasher in a residence to the photocopier in a large office, don’t need to run.
Cisco aims to be the company that facilitates this two-way conversation between the provider and the consumer. That’s because the company can provide an end-to-end, IP-based secure communications network to link the power source with the end user. The end result is that there is a better correlation between power supply and demand, and fewer network outages and disruptions. And most importantly, smart grid efficiency translates into environmental sensitivity.
In 2008, Cisco launched a program in Canada called One Million Acts of Green to demonstrate that anyone can make a difference with the environment. The program has now spread to the U.S. where Cisco is asking every citizen to do something green such as install a low-flow showerhead, take public transit or compost at home. People can register their green deeds online at http://www.greennexxus.com/omaog/index.aspx and learn what impact their acts have.