It’s time to tackle telephony’s carbon footprint

By Joanne Ballard, ESG Strategy and Compliance Director at Maintel.

  • Monday, 13th February 2023 Posted 1 year ago in by Phil Alsop

Government legislation and net zero requirements are driving organisations to find as many ways to tackle carbon emissions as possible. As part of an ambitious sustainability push, businesses are considering every aspect of their organisation to uncover ways to reduce emissions. The first step in realising opportunities to lower emissions is thoroughly understanding current operational emissions, where reductions can be made, while also considering the financial costs of switching to environmentally friendly alternatives.

It is well known that the use of IT equipment creates carbon emissions, both in terms of its manufacture but also in terms of the energy it consumes through ongoing use. For businesses to reduce emissions, they must understand how each component of their IT estate contributes to emissions. This includes everything from data centres to telephony systems. In fact, telephony is one of the often ignored aspects of green IT, despite being one of the core systems businesses rely on daily.

Greener cloud-based telephony

Multiline, private telephone networks are still popular within many organisations. Such on-premise communication systems or private branch exchanges (PBX) require a large amount of energy to operate not to mention the purchase and installation of expensive hardware that is often inflexible in deployment. However, cloud-based telephony systems eliminate the need for energy-intensive servers and other redundant infrastructure associated with traditional telephony.

Switching to a cloud-based VoIP system allows organisations to access sophisticated telephony without needing energy-intensive on-site hardware. Instead, businesses can leverage a provider’s server, which allows for greater efficiency, especially where they are invested in using renewable energy sources. Virtualisation, with one server running multiple programs and systems is key to reducing reliance on high-impact on-premises solutions. In fact, it is estimated that CO2 emission reductions from migrations to the public cloud could be the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road.

A significant reduction in hardware, equipment and energy usage comes with moving traditional phone systems to VoIP. It is now possible to see the impact of switching to cloud telephony in real terms before committing.

Hidden benefits of a green cloud approach

Not only do cloud-based systems provide opportunities to directly reduce energy use, but there are wider benefits that can also deliver against sustainability objectives. For example, shifting to cloud communications provides reliability, resilience, and flexibility for remote workers, improving the efficiency of how technology, people and processes combine.

It allows workers to access an organisation’s communications system from wherever they are, with VoIP being a highly flexible system that can be integrated into various hardware - at home and in the office. In this way, remote, flexible working is enabled and enhanced, reducing the need for unnecessary travel to offices. Without the need for traditional phone lines, VoIP is more reliable and more flexible to needs. For example, cloud phone numbers are not attached to one physical location, bringing the remote working environment to anywhere in the world.

And, not only is it greener, more reliable and more flexible but the move to the cloud is also more cost-effective in the long run. With energy prices rising, energy-intensive operations will soar in the coming months and years. Adopting cloud now could save companies in the long run.

A green strategy beginning to end

While many cloud systems can be integrated into existing technologies, sometimes it is necessary to replace on-premise communications systems to make way for greener alternatives. Once on-premise communication systems are removed it is vital to ensure that good work is not undone by disposing of hardware improperly.

Regulations such as the 2013 WEEE Directive require businesses to create a comprehensive strategy, and for good reason. Electronic waste contains an extraordinary amount of precious and hazardous materials. Along with toxic chemicals which pollute the land and water supply, valuable gold, lithium, cobalt and copper found in e-waste have a limited global supply.

Creating a full recycling strategy can be complicated and costly for small businesses, so when considering a move to cloud, seek a partner that assists with responsible recycling with a zero-to-landfill model and relevant certification for security and sustainability auditing. Not only that, but recycling e-waste also makes financial sense – consider that there is 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than a tonne of gold ore! Consider too using renewed mobile handsets, which can have up to 87% less environmental impact and are around 20% cheaper than new devices.

In addition, unregulated and unregistered asset disposal comes with the issue of data security. Big names such as Morgan Stanley have suffered damaging incidents related to their failure to properly retire old assets containing sensitive data. Make sure to choose a partner that will ensure any redundant hardware meets data security requirements.

Get started

Green IT is becoming increasingly crucial as companies seek to lower damaging carbon emissions, and telephony is a core part of this mix. Understanding the impact of switching to cloud solutions should be considered a fundamental step towards greater efficiency, both in terms of energy use and also in providing employees with greater resiliency and flexibility. Our Carbon Estimator gives you the insight businesses need to inspire change and start their journey.