Stephen Smith: Flexible communications – the ‘green’ dimension

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In times of financial stringency, it is no wonder that the main focus is on how more flexible communications makes economic sense. Yet as the example of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) graphically shows, there is a valuable additional benefit – offering a greener alternative by improving corporate environmental performance.

Established in 2003, the LowCVP is a not-for-profit action and advisory group. It includes around 170 organisations from the automotive and fuel industries, the environmental sector, government, academia and others with a stake in this part of the national environmental agenda.

If it is going to have any impact on government policy, the LowCVP needs to ensure high quality, frequent communications with its members. To do this, it has successfully adopted advanced collaboration technologies, as part of the drive to accelerate the move to low carbon vehicles and fuels and ensuring UK businesses benefit from this shift.

How does this work? The LowCVP secretariat, for example, uses the online collaboration tool to run regular meetings previously held either face-to-face or by telephone. It also hosts on-line webinars on issues of industry-wide importance which are frequently attended by 50 or more members. Participants are able to exchange and work on documents in a way which replicates most of the key attributes of a physical meeting and also easily take part in webinars, via simple, one-click access.

This is especially valuable when sharing information or seeking members’ views at short notice, or when it is either impractical or too costly to get key stakeholders together within given time constraints.

Like other organisations, the LowCVP has found that there are some meetings that will always be more suited to face-to-face contact. However, in most cases a virtual alternative is equally suitable, with the result that the LowCVP has been able to increase the number of meetings where it can share best practice and other information with partner organisations. And this has been achieved without a parallel increase in travel and fuel costs, at the same time making much more effective use of members’ valuable time.

As an organisation, the LowCVP’s very existence is based on the drive to improve organisations’ environmental performance. Effective virtual collaboration tools allow members to hold meetings online and reduce the need to meet physically. This cuts associated carbon emissions and has proved a major plus in enabling the LowCVP to visibly practice what it preaches.

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