How to cut your company's carbon footprint (and energy costs)

BT's consulting service shares techniques to reduce environmental impact while saving money

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An "agile worker" program can help an organization reduce its office infrastructure costs. You can begin by simply analyzing the current situation to improve use of office real estate. "So all the people who are out of the office three days a week because they are sales guys or operational guys don't need the permanent desk that sits there empty for three out of the five days a week," Moss says. "What you need for that is an infrastructure that allows them to come in, put a computer on the desk, and they are on the network, plug a PIN number into the phone and it rings as if it is their own."

The next step, he says, is to encourage telecommuting to increase the number of employees who work from home some days each week, and thus increase the number of people who can time-share office space. This also reduces the overall carbon footprint and other air pollution in the area around the office. Even those who do frequently need to be in the office may be able to move their commuting to non-rush hours or work partial days from home, thus reducing the time they spend in traffic jams.

Commuting isn't included in a corporate energy footprint, but an active telecommuting program has other direct benefits to the organization. BT in the U.K., for example, has a 98% retention rate of women returning to their jobs after giving birth -- "skilled employees whom we want to keep," Moss says -- compared with a 50% average for the U.K. overall, in large part because the option of telecommuting allows these women to tend to their babies at home while working full time. It also allows an organization to employ skilled individuals who do not live near its offices, giving it a wider talent pool on which to draw.

Data center temperature increase

"One of the things we have done with our own data center operations and working hard with our vendors is increase the operating temperature of our data center," Moss says. The change in temperature is not dramatic. "I think we are talking about going from a temperature that requires people to wear two or three layers of sweaters to a temperature that only requires one," he says, but it has an impact, and BT has done this with its network switches as well. It also has moved its data centers from AC to DC power and makes liberal use of virtualization to increase utilization of equipment.

Industry-specific measures often take greater creativity. Moss offers as an example a solution it developed for a large beverage retailer in the U.K. that owns thousands of soda-dispensing machines, some of which didn't need to be restocked on every scheduled resupply appointment. Every day the company sent out trucks loaded with product to refill the soda machines. BT's solution was to equip the machines with intelligent, wireless sensors that could report stocking levels to the company's warehouses automatically. This allows drivers to plan their routes to service only those machines that need attention and to stock their trucks with exactly the amount of each product they will need for that day's run.

The result, Moss says, was a 10% cut in the mileage the vehicles drive each week. Additionally, the drivers were able to reduce vehicle loads by 30%. "Now a 30% load is not quite a 30% carbon footprint, but the carbon footprint of a vehicle has a dependency on the vehicle's weight," Moss says. "That solution saved them a lot of other costs as well."

Another example is Northumbrian Water, a major British water supplier that maintains a large field force. BT recommended that it equip its field service personnel with wireless PDAs (not provided by BT) to provide better field force management. This allowed the company to reduce the mileage its field force drives by 20% while maintaining or improving service levels.

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