Avaya Presents at Historic U.N. Environment Assembly

Avaya representatives recently traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to participate in the first-ever United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the highest-level U.N. body ever convened on the environment.

Along with speaking at the inaugural UNEA, an honor in itself, Avaya reps also presented at the Sustainable Innovation Expo, where they demonstrated how the company’s technologies can assist governments and local communities in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The bottom line? Avaya’s solutions are part of the solution. And the company doesn’t need to look far for an example.

Avaya’s implementation of its own telecommunications technology helped reduced its miles traveled by 44 percent–cutting roughly 44 million miles of travel–over the span of two years. From 2011 to 2013, the company emitted 46 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2), the equivalent of taking nearly 2,000 cars off the road for a year.

UNEA Avaya

In the presentation, Sara Broadbent, Avaya’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sachin Jadhav, Kenya manager, pointed to customers that have enjoyed similar successes, like 3D Networks, a company that reduced travel costs by $35,000 per person after adopting Avaya technologies.

When climate change leads to climate disasters, Avaya is there too.

“When supporting emergency operations, the technology needs to work every minute of every day. There’s no time to reboot when help is needed, and every second saved saves lives,” explained Broadbent. “This is a key reason why Avaya is trusted to help government agencies when tragedy strikes.”

Most recently, Hurricane Sandy led calls into the New York 311 call center to skyrocket from a daily average of 55,000 calls to more than 250,000 calls. Avaya’s contact center technology proved reliable despite that monstrous 355+ percent increase in average traffic.

And when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was faced with power outages that impacted millions, they too trusted Avaya. The MTA set up 18 Scopia® virtual desktop war rooms for executive staff to handle the crisis, logging more than 1,000 hours of video conferencing in just three days.

During the UNEA presentation, Avaya also highlighted how its solutions support telemedicine and long-distance learning, while minimizing travel-related greenhouse gas emissions.

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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

Avaya Publishes 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report

This week, Avaya announced the release of our fiscal year 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report. The Report builds off of the company’s inaugural report, released last year, and illustrates the company’s key opportunities for making a positive difference in the world through its employees, products, customers and supply chain. A full copy of the report is available here.

At Avaya, corporate responsibility means considering the environmental, social, and economic impacts of doing business. Our corporate responsibility strategy is grounded in four focus areas: workplace, environment, marketplace, and community, and realized through programmatic initiatives that address the topics most important to our business and stakeholders.

As described in the report, in fiscal year 2015 Avaya:

  • Exceeded our five-year goal to reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent before 2015.
  • Reduced its carbon footprint from business operations by 14 percent in one year.
  • Became an affiliate member of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), which ensures safe and humane labor standards, environmentally responsible business practices and high ethical standards in the supply chain.
  • Made 95 percent of its applications available as virtual machines, reducing energy, hardware and costs for our customers.
  • Improved packaging designs to reduce shipping costs and environmental impact.
  • Partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps program to explore energy and cost-savings opportunities in our labs and data centers.
  • Joined with partners and suppliers to host the company’s first-ever Global Month of Giving, which raised approximately $250,000 for charitable organizations and engaged thousands of employees around the globe.

While we are pleased with the progress we have made over the last year, we recognize there is still more work to do. In 2016, we are focusing on furthering our commitment by establishing a dedicated fund to support charitable causes, and expanding our influence to create positive change through partnerships with customers and suppliers.

Some of the greatest benefits to society will be realized through the acceleration and adoption of our technology, which has the ability to increase productivity while minimizing risk, physical infrastructure footprints, operational costs, and stress on natural resources.

For example, a recent customer, Ballantyne Strong, cut travel costs by 80 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 27.25 metric tons of CO2e per year after adopting Avaya Scopia® video conferencing.

Avaya solutions are cloud-enabled, mobile, interoperable and engage people across time and space to quickly solve customer problems and meet the demands of a changing 21st-century workplace.

Our reach goes even further: A recent industry study from the Global-e Sustainability Initiative (GeSi) illustrates how the information and communication technology industry will play an important role in curbing climate change emissions and shaping a more equitable future. GeSi estimates that by 2030 “ICT will connect 1.6 billion more people to healthcare and half a billion more to e-learning,” and “can enable a 20 percent reduction of global CO2 emissions, holding emissions at 2015 levels.”

With the recent endorsement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Climate Agreement, which resulted in a legally binding agreement across 196 countries to take necessary action on global warming to limit global warming below 2°C, climate change is interconnected with the world’s most pressing challenges.

Sustainable development and climate change are impacting companies, governmental organizations and civil society, and solutions to these challenges are in high demand. Fortunately, the ICT industry is uniquely positioned to help. At Avaya, we recognize that we are part of this larger narrative, and are committed to engaging, advancing and sharing our progress with all of you.