Business Meetings at a Distance – decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and cumulative energy demand?

Borggren, C., Moberg, Å., Räsänen, M., Finnveden, G. (2012) Business Meetings at a Distance – decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and cumulative energy demand? Journal of Cleaner Production. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.09.003

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Abstract

Transportation, or rather access, is a major challenge in relation to achieving environmental goals and in striving for sustainable development. One potential means suggested to decrease the environmental impact related to accessibility is mediated meetings. However, few studies have quantified the potential environmental impacts with a life cycle perspective. With inspiration from a project involving four major Swedish media companies experiencing an increasing need for business travel and decreasing resources, this study assessed the potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and cumulative energy demand (CED) related to different types of business meetings, using a life cycle perspective. The potential consequences for emissions of GHG and CED in two hypothetical companies introducing mediated meetings were also assessed. The results indicated that mediated meetings using personal computers can reduce GHG emissions and CED per meeting and that more advanced mediated solutions are preferable to meetings which require travel, if the equipment is frequently used to replace travel. However, advanced technology that is under-used may give similar or higher GHG emissions and CED than meetings traveled to by train. All mediated meeting alternatives studied here had lower GHG emissions and CED than meetings which required travel by plane or car. LCD screen manufacture contributed the main environmental impact of mediated meetings, but the meeting rooms needed, electricity use for equipment and internet use for data transmission were also important in some cases. As LCD screen manufacture and internet energy use were main issues and as the data on these issues are uncertain, they should be further assessed and updated in future studies. Introduction of mediated meetings in companies and organizations should involve a thorough consideration of needs and possible solutions to achieve the best possible environmental benefits through efficient use and replacement of travel.

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