How Telecommuting Can Save the Planet

How much did you travel last year? I imagine if you sat down and really thought about it, the answer would surprise you.

Here are some numbers to help you along:

• The average American (aged 25 to 54) spends 64 minutes per day in the car, which equates to about 35 miles per person, per day.

• The average commuter spends the equivalent of an entire work week stuck in traffic each year.

• Collectively, Americans drive about 250 billion miles per month.

• Last year, Americans pumped 169.9 billion gallons of gas and bought 815.3 million airplane tickets.

Every mile we travel impacts the environment. Another way to look at it is that every minute we don’t travel but can be productive from anywhere, also impacts the environment. Here at Avaya, many of the products we produce are designed to help companies lessen their impact on the planet–by reducing the number of unnecessary, work-related trips we make each day and more efficiently using the infrastructure that powers critical business functions.

On Nov. 20, I’m attending the United Nations’ Climate Action Sustainable Innovation Forum in Poland to talk about how technology is helping companies reduce their impact on the environment. I’m excited to be able to share real-world examples of Avaya customers who are already reducing their environmental footprint while improving their bottom line:

• In Australia, a tech company estimates that software-enabled collaboration via the Avaya Flare® Experience will help them save $35,000 per person, per year in travel costs and increase productivity by 30 percent.

• In Texas, a law firm was able to reduce its office space footprint from 17,000 square feet to 2,200 square feet, (saving about $60,000 per year in operating costs) by encouraging their 30 employees to regularly work from home part-time.

• A U.S.-based shipping and logistics company with multiple offices around the country estimates that they’re saving $40,000 to $60,000 per year in conventional, in-person training costs by setting up virtual offices for their contact center agents and other staff members. In addition to the tremendous cost savings, they’re experiencing a 300 percent increase in home agent productivity.

The benefits of remote work have been well-documented.

It’s estimated that 3.3 million Americans telecommute full-time, representing a little more than 2.5 percent of the total workforce, according to Global Workplace Analytics. The research group estimates that half of Americans are working jobs that are compatible with telecommuting. Teleworkers are, on average, 15- to 20 percent more productive than their colleagues at the office, according to the Society of Human Resource Management.

Global Workplace Analytics estimates that if every American with a telecommuting-compatible job worked from home just one day week, the country would save 2.3 million barrels of oil, or 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions (the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year).

What does your company stand to gain by exploring better ways to work? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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Corporate Social Responsibility: What Everyone’s Thinking, But Not Saying

Let’s talk corporate culture. Not about how a strong culture pays (though we’ll get into that in a moment), but the importance of companies leveraging their core competencies for common good.

If you follow the news or check any of your social feeds, you’ll see that companies frequently emerge to participate in charitable acts or socially responsible initiatives. In the summer, for example, a team may clean up a beach to advocate for environmental awareness. Around the holidays, we’ll find many companies’ employees volunteering at homeless shelters to give back to their communities. Every April 22, companies around the world do their part to help the environment as part of #EarthDay. Perhaps your organization is one of them.

Any charitable act is always a good one. However, the one-and-done approach severely misses the mark. We tend to see organizations carving out one or two charitable events per quarter to carry them through the year, but just how many are driven by something they’re passionate about? How many can say their employees work together as a community of caring individuals to support a greater good? This concept of acting for the benefit of society at large—known as corporate social responsibility (CSR)—drastically differs from an isolated, albeit well-intentioned, act of charity.

The concept of CSR is simple yet radical: companies have a moral obligation to use their market value to advance society beyond what’s simply required of them. Consider, for example, a technology services provider that equips classrooms with next-gen communication and collaboration tools to amplify learning. Taking it a step further, employees could visit these same classrooms at the start of every school year to show each new group of students how to maximize use of the solutions.

The bottom line is this: CSR must be tightly woven into every company’s fabric, rather than a single activity that’s only temporarily rallied around. It must be a unified approach to creating lifelong impact; it’s a mindset adopted by all. CSR is more than donating a percentage of annual earnings or implementing a day of greener business operations. It’s a duty that every individual from the top down should perform. It requires the giving of time and energy, both individually and collectively, for causes cared about. This isn’t always easy or convenient, yet this is the principle of CSR: to look beyond ourselves in pursuit of the greater good.

Consider British cosmetics retailer Lush, which has been using its products for more than 20 years to boldly fight for the protection of people, animals and the planet. The company sells some of its products “naked,” meaning there’s no packaging or wrapping involved at all. According to the company, just one consumer consistently buying “naked” can save more than 30 plastic bottles from entering landfills each year. The organization also develops custom products (like its Charity Pot lotion) and donates 100% of the price to grassroots organizations working in areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights. From bullying to fur trapping to LGBTQ rights, the company actively works for several causes it cares deeply about.

Often, customers will go out of their way to do business with brands that embody strong and evolving CSR. A 2015 study of 10,000 consumers, for example, found that 90% will switch to brands that support responsible causes, while 71% are willing to pay more for socially responsible goods and services. It’s no wonder Lush consistently outperforms year over year (Lush saw a 26% increase in sales from 2014 to 2015 alone).

But this doesn’t apply to companies with a one-and-done approach. Consider that more than half of customers today won’t even believe a company’s CSR initiatives until they have proof. And this number is even higher among millennials—81% expect their favorite companies to make public declarations of their corporate citizenship. This is why leading brands like Starbucks, Google and TOMS publish annual versions of Global Responsibility or Giving reports to show they’re delivering on their CSR promises.

So, how can more brands start making CSR part of their organizational DNA? All it takes is one person working to embody CSR into the personality of the organization. CSR starts with everyday employees driving the initiative to spend time on socially responsible activities, whatever they may be. Just as important is the willingness of leadership to support and even join these employees. This collective-action approach is strongly promoted at companies like Nestle, Rolex, and LEGO, all which were ranked by Forbes as brands with the best CSR reputations in 2016.

CSR is no light matter, and organizations are beginning to grasp this fact. In fact, 64% of CEOs surveyed last year said that CSR is now core to their business, rather than being a standalone program.

Every organization should be leveraging its value for the greater good not just for one day, one week, or one month, but on a continual basis. In the spirit of the recently-celebrated Earth Day, I challenge you to think about the true value of CSR and how your organization can push further. Our communities are counting on our commitment.

Earth Day 2017: A Call for Education and Action … Because it Takes a Village (Truly!)

On Saturday, the world will come together for Earth Day 2017. I believe this is one of the most important days of the year because it’s a reminder of the responsibility we have to protect our planet, future generations, and each other (and we can all use reminders). This year’s campaign is about strengthening environmental and climate literacy. This is an especially relevant theme considering there are people who still challenge and debate the science driving climate change programs, initiatives, and legislation. To this end, it’s critical for us to recognize that unchecked pollution is the cause of climate change, and work to become climate literate so we can be voices for change. Remember, knowledge is power and that leads to action and progress—our only defense against the unprecedented threat that is climate change.

I have the good fortune of working for Avaya, a company that recognizes the unique opportunity we have to drive positive social, environmental and economic impact. We call this our Corporate Responsibility, and this spirit is reflected in everything we do, from upholding high ethical standards in the ways we conduct business to volunteering in our local communities and designing products that are energy efficient and require less hardware. (Learn more in our new Corporate Responsibility Report for Avaya’s 2016 Fiscal Year.) The primary reason for the environmental strides we’ve made can be attributed to our people. Corporate Responsibility is a mindset at Avaya. Our leaders and employees are educated, committed and active, and we continue to show we can move mountains with tight budgets and resources.

Why Companies Need to Lead in Protecting People and Our Planet

If we don’t, who will?

Look, it can be challenging. Getting the green light for programs that aren’t directly tied to revenue often requires perseverance. But we disregard the environment at our own peril. I believe businesses today have a moral obligation to act in ways that are thoughtful, balanced and compassionate, simply for the health of our people and our planet. Beyond that, though, behaving and acting in ways that positively strengthen our communities and the environment is just good business. It’s what customers and top talent have come to expect. Let me explain.

Millennials have recently surpassed boomers as the largest living generation. Also, as a whole, millennials are more passionate in their support of corporate social and environmental efforts. According to a study by Cone Communications, 24% of millennials believe they can make a difference in their community by buying products that support social causes, and 68% say a company’s social/environmental commitment is important or extremely important when deciding which products to buy. Similarly, according toNielsen, 51% of millennials will pay extra for sustainable products, and another 51% actively check the packaging for sustainable labeling. These are customers, and they’re paying attention.

What’s more, in just three years, millennials will account for 50% of the workforce. Now look at the following: A PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported that 88% of millennials prefer companies that emphasize corporate social responsibility, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s Corporate and Social Responsibility no longer met their expectations. If your retention and attrition strategy isn’t considering this data, you need to rethink it.

From where I sit, the connection between a meaningful corporate responsibility initiative and revenue is clear, and it’s direct.

Engage Your Employees

People ask me all the time how to do a lot with a little. After all, we’re operating in a time when budgets are scarce and resources are little. My answer is always this: turn to your employees. And Avaya has a great story.

The past several years, our company experienced a lot of change in its transformation to a software and services company. In spite of this, in 2015, we introduced our first-ever Avaya Month of Giving, a spirited 31-day campaign designed to bring together employees, suppliers and partners to make a difference in communities across the globe. In the run up to kick-off, I had a few people share with me their doubts that we could make this program successful. The thinking was that employees were busy, we had it in July during a high time for vacations, etc. But I never wavered in my belief it would be successful. I knew if we “leaned in” on our Avaya teams from around the globe, they’d deliver. And boy did they! In the words of Margaret Meade, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Collectively, the campaign raised approximately $250,000 for global charities, and engaged 60 employee teams across 32 Avaya locations and resulted in thousands of employees dedicating volunteer hours to charitable causes. Stunning! We followed that up with Month of Giving 2016, raising more than $200,000 for charities around the world. We’re aiming to exceed these numbers when Month of Giving rolls out later this year. #AvayaStrength

We’ve come full circle, back to where we began: our collective responsibility to our planet and to future generations. I can’t think of one reason for any company or individual to not invest all they can to help reverse the effects of climate change. In fact, there are more than a billion ways you can engage. #NoExcuses

As you head out on Saturday, hopefully to give back to your community in some way, I encourage you to keep top of mind the words of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” #EarthDay2017

For Avaya Stadium, It’s Easy Being Green!

Walk into Avaya Stadium, and you’ll be seeing green … and not just on the soccer field! Avaya Stadium, the first cloud-enabled venue in Major League Soccer, is also an innovator in sustainability. The cloud computing provided by Avaya is more energy-efficient than an on-premise data center. In fact, moving to the cloud has been shown to reduce energy demand by as much as 90 percent, according to our Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

The Stadium itself is a brownfield redevelopment with plenty of eco-friendly features. An 882-solar panel array sits atop the carport. With a peak capacity of 220kW, the system will generate enough power annually to offset all regular season gameday usage!

Around 90 percent of the steel used for the superstructure of the Stadium was recycled, and more than 3,500 lineal feet of wood was reclaimed from the nearby Moffett Field’s Hangar One, which saved dozens of trees in construction.

Also in the works is an onsite, edible garden. The garden, which will be presented in partnership with the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County, will grow vegetables to be used by the stadium’s concessions provider. With initiatives like these, there’s no doubt that Avaya Stadium will leave the planet on the winning side of every game.