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Sun shines on "green telework"

Industry giant backs sustainable computing and working practices

"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 green telework.

"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" document

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 home.

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 technology providers:

  • 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.

In this article:

In this article we explore two aspects of modern working that can contribute to environmental sustainability:

  • reducing the need to travel
  • reducing the environmental impact of computing.

These two issues are highlighted in a report from late 2004 from Sun Microsystems, which has a long track record in promoting "greener computing".


Further Information

Download the report from here

Further details are available from the author, James Goodman at Forum for the Future:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 3661

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