Widespread recognition of the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions has been rapidly gaining momentum across the globe, particularly in the last decade, writes Fiona McLean-Banks, Polycom business development manager at Zycko.

Consequently, many organisations have adopted policies to reduce carbon emissions as part of their corporate responsibility. Conferencing is gaining popularity not only among the cost conscious, but also among organisations that are environmentally aware.
The idea of becoming 'carbon neutral' has become popular within the corporate world. It entails calculating the total carbon emissions for various business activities and offsetting this by planting trees, funding 'carbon projects' or buying 'carbon credits'.
Although this is more prevalent in international markets, South African organisations are also becoming increasingly conscious of their 'green' status. One notable section of the population (locally and internationally) concerned with their contribution to minimising carbon emissions is the transformational generation, dubbed Generation Y (current 18 – 25 year olds).
Gartner predicted in 2008 that Green IT would be a key concern for organisations in 2009, and that by 2010 it would become one of the top five IT management concerns for over half of public organisations in developed markets. Although South Africa has been lagging behind in terms of this trend, it has been suggested that in the next few years, companies will see their 'carbon neutral status' becoming as important, if not more so, than their BEE status.
Business travel forms a significant portion of an organisation's carbon footprint, with air travel one of the fastest growing contributors. The rise of the 'mobile worker', and an increase in strategic partnerships and outsourcing means that there is a high demand for effective communication between employees, partners and vendors – who are often geographically dispersed.
Many travel agencies and major airlines now offer carbon calculators, allowing businesses to calculate the emissions generated per individual, as well as the option to offset their carbon footprint as part of the package.
But in many instances, business travel can be cut down on substantially, thanks to conferencing technology. While business travel has always been justified in the past despite its cost, the toll it takes on the environment is now becoming an inhibitor, making management demand even greater justification when travel is required. This pertains to air travel in particular.  In addition, business travel is also time consuming, employees are often inconvenienced, and it is expensive.  Thus, the business benefits gained from cutting down on business travel are significant.
Vendors are playing a proactive role by delivering solutions to not only save money, but also reduce their carbon footprint. Driven by a sense of corporate responsibility, combined with increasing interest in what they are doing for the environment from stakeholders and employees, many organisations are changing the way they think about business communication.
The increasing responsibility being pinned on corporates to reduce their carbon emissions is reason enough for organisations to consider changing their habits when it comes to doing business. Technology provides the means to achieve reliable and effective communication – from reliable bandwidth networks, to High Definition (HD) voice, and conferencing. HD voice is revolutionising Voice over IP (VoIP) communication, making this a compelling option for organisations that are using this platform. Nuances, innuendos and emotion are more effectively relayed with HD Voice.
So while it is important to maintain customer relationships – and nobody is suggesting that we compromise this crucial aspect of a business – it is also important to ensure business is conducted in a manner that reduces carbon emissions and ultimately, saves our environment. With access to conferencing technology, it is possible to achieve the same results, forge and maintain relationships, improve efficiency by eliminating travel time and minimise the impact of conducting business on the environment.