CDP Are Fighting Climate Change with Cisco Collaboration Tools and Carbon Emissions Disclosure


I wanted to leave IT. I loved what I was doing, but I'd been at it for too long. After 27 years, I needed another challenge, and I thought switching to a different field would make me happy. But that's not what happened. I stayed in IT, but I started working for an organization that tried to make the world a better place. These days, I'm working harder than ever and I'm happier than I've ever been.

I joined CDP in 2010 when the organization was already in its tenth year. Originally called Carbon Disclosure Project, our goal was simple: We wanted companies to voluntarily disclose how much carbon they generated. We weren't looking to shame polluters. Instead, we wanted to encourage businesses to start acting responsibly. After all, ethical investors prefer to put their money into companies and organizations that do some good.

Disclosing Carbon Emissions and More

We soon saw that carbon emissions weren’t the only issue having an impact on climate change. The depletion of forests and the pollution of waterways also contribute to the degradation of our environment. So, we started asking companies to disclose how they were using—and protecting—water and forests.

Disclosing not only helps investors make ethical choices. It also helps companies, cities, states, and regions better understand their environmental impact and all the attendant risks. This provides the evidence and insight needed to drive action.

An important, more recent, strand of our work is our supply chain initiative. Participants include more than 100 purchasing organizations and over 4,800 suppliers. We promote transparency across the entire production and distribution process, which helps companies choose suppliers whose values are aligned with theirs. It also provides investors with a 360-degree view of the ventures they finance.

I thought all this was going to be temporary—I was a bit of an optimist. I believed carbon disclosure would solve climate change. It is helping, but we have a long way to go. This is a lifetime commitment.

Fighting climate change is a lifetime commitment. It’s also a good investment. @CiscoGateway #CiscoGateway

As an organization that helps companies reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact, CDP must also lead by example. One of the ways we do this is by using video conferencing and online meeting solutions.

CDP started small. There were 30 of us at our London headquarters to begin. We now have 260 employees around the world, and offices in Germany, India, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, and Brazil. As you can imagine, we coordinate a lot of meetings to work with all these offices and our many partners.

Sometimes, our team members have no choice but to travel. After all, some conversations need to happen in person. When you work for a small company such as ours, the occasional trip to another office is also a good way to boost morale. It feels good when you finally meet colleagues from another country face to face. But we only travel when we feel it’s necessary. 

Leading by Example Through Video Conferencing

I didn't always see video conferencing as a way to help save the planet. I moved to England from New Zealand 30 years ago. Back in the 90s, when they were still a fairly new technology, I bought a couple of webcams and shipped one back home to my mum.

It was a way of saving money since international phone calls cost a fortune. This way, we could dial into our local internet service provider and talk to each other. I do mean “dial into,” as these were the days before broadband. We saved on long distance fees and, as a bonus, we got choppy low-resolution video of each other. Sometimes we could even make out our highly pixelated faces. Decades later, I’m using the latest video conferencing technology to provide tech support and connect people around the world.

The technology platform we use today at CDP is Cisco Webex. When I got here, CDP already used Webex, but in a very limited manner. We had a single license to start, and people would take turns using it. Now we have 50, and at least 30 of those are used daily at our offices around the world.

Initially, we used Webex for meetings with partner organizations and institutional investors everywhere. We still use it in this manner because the Cisco name carries a lot of weight when it comes to enterprise network security.

Many other video meeting platforms are also blocked by corporate firewalls. Skype may have an enterprise version now with Microsoft, but it started out life as a consumer product. There are many companies that still block all instances of other consumer-oriented video meeting applications. But most will let a Cisco Webex meeting through their firewall. It is recognized as a robust and secure meeting platform.

On top of audio and video conferencing, Webex also allows us to share text and other files. The solution is a great way to stay in touch and share information with our external partners and the investors, on whose behalf we work.

Do you really need to travel to your next meeting? Is there a way to be present remotely? @CiscoGateway #CiscoGateway

In fact, whenever we finish compiling our data and release a new Carbon Disclosure Report to the market, we often use Webex to host our launch presentation. It’s the best way to get the information out to all our various stakeholders, wherever they are.

Speeding Up Processes with Webex

I suspect most of my colleagues use Webex 5–10 times a day. I've lost count of how often I use it in the course of a given day. I'm here in London, Monday to Friday, 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. U.K. time. I spend those twelve hours helping CDP staff around the world.

Webex is great for troubleshooting, since it lets me see what's happening on my colleagues' screens. I can also remotely control their computers without ever leaving the app. This greatly speeds up the troubleshooting process. It's amazing that I can help my colleagues at our international offices this way, but I can also assist somebody here in London without requiring them to bring their computer to my office.

Come to think of it, Webex speeds up everything we do at CDP.

Webex is also versatile enough that we all find different ways to use it. Beyond streamlining workflows, it brings all of us closer to colleagues who are far away. There's a huge difference between a phone call and a video conference.

It's one thing to hear a Hong Kong staffer express enthusiasm about a new initiative, but it's entirely another to see them break into a big smile. Seeing someone enhances communication. It adds layers of context and emotion that are often missing in voice calls and emails.

Making Virtual Meetings the New Normal

For the bigger meetings, we have a couple of Cisco MX700 video collaboration in-room systems at our New York and London offices. These are incredible video meeting products. Each unit features two 55-inch screens, built-in microphones and speakers, and cameras that can track users in the room. The screens can display the participants of meetings at remote locations, as well as any files they might want to share.

You'd expect such technology to be complicated and difficult to set up—but that's one of the ways Cisco excels as a partner. For example, the MX700 may be an all-in-one device, however it needs some space! Cisco assists us with every detail, from room installation, to all of the required instructions and requirements that are comprehensive and easy to understand. That's the kind of partnership we get with Cisco.

Putting the Team in Teamwork

We also use Cisco Webex Teams and have Webex Boards in our smaller rooms. These interactive screens can join a Webex meeting whenever needed, but they are also about working together as a team and not just talking to each other.

The Webex Board is a digital whiteboard with conferencing built in. It's a single 55- or 70-inch screen with a built-in camera and microphone.

In a meeting, participants can write on the board with their fingers or the provided stylus pen. They can also draw in the Webex Teams app on their tablet and wirelessly display their work live on the Webex Board. They can even mirror their tablet or laptop screens on a Webex Board. This allows them to work collaboratively on any of their supported devices.

The big difference for our teams using either an MX700 or Webex Board is that people are no longer hunched in front of their laptops, speaking into headsets. Our employees are fully 'present' to each other in a room, and they are remotely connected to peers on the other side of the world. We even use Webex for our monthly all-team meetings. Given the time difference between our international offices, it would be unfair to hold all these meetings on London or New York time, so we rotate.

Every month, we choose a different office to host, and the meeting takes place in the afternoon, local time. When it's 1:00 p.m. in New York, it's 1:00 a.m. in Beijing, and vice versa. By rotating these meetings, no one has to stay up late month after month.

It's a good compromise and team-building exercise. Everyone across the globe gets to see one another.

Investing in a Clean Future

One day, I'd like to think that we may succeed in stopping climate change. But what comes after that? We can't go back to a pre-industrial society. Like it or not, we have to rely on large-scale manufacturing and heavy industry. Human activity will continue to have an impact on the planet, so there will be new challenges to face.

Video conferencing used to be about saving long distance fees. Now it’s about reducing your carbon footprint and saving the planet. @CiscoGateway #CiscoGateway

For now, CDP will continue to hold companies accountable. We will work to help investors choose businesses that are trying to reduce their carbon impact, and minimizing their impact on forests and water.

Cisco is more than our IT partner.  Cisco has voluntarily disclosed its carbon output, earning a place on the CDP "A List" for its leadership on climate change. I think this is fabulous. Cisco’s Global Environment Sustainability Lead, Darrel Stickler and our own Executive Chair, Paul Dickinson helped us create a virtual meeting culture at CDP. They showed us how to put our money where our mouth is. 

Whether we're corporate citizens or individuals, we all have to do our part to mitigate and eventually reverse climate change. As our member companies, organizations, cities, and regions have shown, it starts by measuring our impact. Knowing how our activities impact the environment allows us to change them.

Cisco has over 70,000 employees globally. CDP has 260. If so many of us can work together to make a change at the organizational level, think what you can do at your own place of business and in your own home.

Act responsibly. Shop consciously. Invest ethically. We all have a part to play, and if enough of us do what's right, we can do right by the planet.