Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cisco is an EPA Climate Leader: Part 3 Transportation

Transportation is reviewed in part three of Cisco’s experiences with the EPA Climate Leaders program. Some of the themes reviewed with John Hailey, Cisco’s Senior Manager of Workplace Resources and Sustainable Development include:
  • Sustainability metrics are still evolving.
  • Most changes that are focused on ROI benefit the environment. Sometimes when comparing two options, a dirtier approach may be less costly when compared to its greener counterpart. Making other changes in the value chain can still reduce costs of the overall process and the savings can then fund greener alternatives.
  • If an in-house activity can be made into a product or service, adoption is accelerated.
Improving metrics for Airline Travel
Cisco partnered with TRX, an airline industry service agent, and went a step further when measuring GhG (Greenhouse Gas) for its airline travel. John Hailey explained, “The typical allowable measurement approach was to simply count total airline miles traveled. TRX offers a more accurate assessment by counting trip legs and identifying specific aircraft to determine exactly how much GhG is produced.” Since older aircraft emits dirtier emissions, and direction-dependant headwinds require more fuel, multiple legs measurement offers a truer reflection of total GhG emissions.

Driving down costs may lead to sub-optimal green practices
With its aggressive expense management, Cisco has traditionally focused on the cost side of travel equation when negotiating standard fares, and the assumption was that the less spent on travel the more its GhG numbers would improve. What Cisco found was that just using price as a surrogate for GhG reduction was not accurate. The lower prices translated into flights on aging aircraft, which are inherently less energy efficient. Finding that its airline travel emissions were above the industry average,John Hailey shared that “Cisco now negotiates improved GhG performance in addition to favorable price discounts.”

Use savings from one activity to fund more expensive greener options
Cisco set an aggressive airline mileage reduction goal since the introduction of its TelePresence product, which allows high definition conference room meetings around the globe. Cisco has reduced its GhG emissions by over 11%, reports John Hailey, and has set aggressive new goals to reduce airline travel by up to 40%, thus taking full advantage of TelePresence product. Cisco held its most recent annual sales meeting using TelePresence and reduced GhG emissions since it avoided extensive travel to bring employees across the globe to a single location.

Fleet management goals leverage EU standards
Cisco’s fleet is mostly in Europe where the standard is to provide a company car for managers and above. EU also has more stringent guidelines for businesses with regard to controls on GhG emissions. Cisco is thus providing higher mpg or alternative fuel vehicles options for participants.

Cisco is not yet considering addressing commuting or business travel by employee’s personal car, although that is an option available to EPA Climate Leaders participants when setting new goals.

Cisco’s learning in transportation are include:
  • Dig deeper to understand the full implications of its airline travel to include aircraft and individual trip legs.
  • Cost is not always a good substitute for GhG emissions since cheaper does not always equate to greener.
  • Since Cisco saved a great deal of money by reducing airline travel, those savings could fund the slightly higher cost of greener flights when required while still reducing overall business travel costs.
  • By leveraging its own TelePresence product, Cisco found that TelePresence was embraced enthusiastically as a method to achieve its green goals.
Cisco’s 25% reduction from 2007 baseline in five years equates to nearly 165,000 metric tons. Based on the EPA Carbon calculator; 165,000 metric tons of GhG is the equivalent annual emissions from 110,806 cars.

From the EPA website, “Climate Leaders is an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Partner companies commit to reducing their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA.” Learn more about EPA Climate Leaders Program >>.

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