"The environmental potential of teleworking is not
being fully realised". That is the view of a new report from Sun
Microsystems and the Forum for the Future.
Encouraging Green Telework outlines the environmental
benefits that can be delivered from teleworking, by:
- reducing private car traffic by 3% in the short term, with a
potential for greater savings in the future
- reducing traffic congestion at peak times
- reducing the need for more road building
- improving the efficiency of office space
- reducing the total energy use of companies
- helping to reduce development pressure in London the South East.
The authors argue that although forward-looking companies are
setting the pace,
"there is no systematic approach from government to promoting
"Telework on its own is not going to save the world - but it
is an example of the sort of behaviour that the government should be
encouraging. If companies are given the right incentives, if
the government provides guidelines...above all if telework is made
easy, then teleworking could make a significant contribution to
sustainable development in the UK."
What can the government do? The report recommends:
- provide financial incentives for companies that promote telework
as part of corporate environmental policy
- encourage green telework in the civil service
- address environmental behaviour in the DTI's "Telework Guidance"
Meanwhile employers can
- take responsibility for the environmental impact of their
employee's working patterns
- look to sustainable computing models to reduce duplication of
equipment between home and work
- promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in the
Greener computing too
Teleworking is one way to reduce the environmental impacts of
economic activity But critics often point to the environmental
ill-effects of modern technologies. This report also explores
ways to reduce these impacts. It provides recommendations to
- Products should minimise materials use from the outset.
Miniaturisation can help, but this should not lead to greater
proliferation of devices
- Product life needs to be extended
- More advantage needs to be taken of mobile devices which use
less energy and material resources than desktop PCs
- "Thin client" solutions should be considered as they may have
smaller environmental impacts.
Sun has long promoted "thin client" solutions or "network
computing" as an efficient alternative to desktop PCs. The gist
of this approach is that on the desktop all you have is a monitor and
a keyboard. All the intelligence of the system is on the server,
which serves up applications and files as you need them. Almost
nothing is processed or stored at the user's end.
According to Sun's booklet Sustainable Computing "the
overall environmental footprint of the desktop can be reduced by as
much as 75% while increasing mobility and inclusion". Sun also
promotes the efficiency benefits of this approach for the enterprise.
The report as a whole is a thoughtful synthesis of previous
research - and hopefully will be a stimulus to action by the
government and by other large organisations.