Flexible working could cut CO2 emissions

4 May 2007

PARIS: Using technologies like notebook PCs to facilitate mobile working can reduce environment-damaging CO2 emissions, an expert said yesterday.

Mobile working and a flexible work ethos can ease gridlock at rush hours and the use of audio and video conferencing could cut down on air travel, said Peter Arnfalk from Lund University, Sweden. He encouraged the IT industry to actively promote these working methods and take a stand on environmental issues.

Arnfalk was speaking at a Dell conference in Paris on mobility.

“The focus should be less on mobility but more on flexible working methodologies,” he said. “The industry should cooperate with policy makers to drive home this message.”

Aspects of the positive effect the IT industry can have on the environment is the gradual move away from the manufacture of CDs to downloadable MP3s.

“Another example is how millions of journals that would have occupied libraries are being moved onto databases,” Arnfalk said. “The advent of e-business, video conferencing and e-learning mean that people don’t have to travel as much and waste less.”

Arnfalk pointed out that 54pc of US corporate travel managers say their companies continue to cut trips in favor of more audio and video conferencing.

“This was previously seen as a poor substitute for face-to-face meetings, especially when dealing with customers or alliance partners, but it’s now an acceptable and preferable form of meetings,” he added.

Arnfalk pointed out that slumping economic conditions and terrorist attacks have also led to increased use of virtual meeting technologies.

He also pointed to European telecoms operator Telia which reduced CO2 emissions by 50pc.

“The major part of this reduction was due to the company’s reduction of passenger transports by air, car and train. At the same time the use of virtual meetings increased by 300pc,” Arnfalk said.

The growing population of teleworkers made possible through broadband and wireless technologies could also contribute to reducing emissions as it will result in less people traveling to work by car.

Flexible working ethos in various economies will also contribute to reducing emissions as workers will be able to work at their own steam and leave for work outside of rush hour times, thereby shortening trips.

He said that the estimated share of regular home workers in 2020 will be 16pc in the UK, 15pc in Germany and 11pc in France.

However, he predicted, the share of flexible workers in 2020 will be 80pc in the UK, 81pc in Germany and 76pc in France.

By John Kennedy