I'm writing this blog post from the first trade show I've been to in quite a while, the HIMSS 09 healthcare-related show, where I actually stood in a bus shuttle line yesterday because there were so many people here.
Although this has really nothing to do with this post, it kind of does, because one of the topics I was debating at lunch and throughout the afternoon during downtime was the state of business travel as a result of the downturn. As in, so many former super-uber frequent flyers have been grounded in the past six months or so that they've lost their airline status. The Cisco people that I'm here with have been particularly affected, what with how much they all rely on their own WebEx services to conducting literally dozens of multi-location meetings a week.
The World Wildlife Fun (WWF) actually released two reports that explore the environmental impact of business travel and the replacement technology that is helping more companies "just say no" to ridiculous airfares. The research was written up independently by WWF but some of the funding cam from Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.
The first, called "Virtual Meetings and Climate Innovation in the 21st Century," focuses on the fact that business travel can account for up to 50 percent of a company's carbon footprint. The economic downturn may have been the actual reason that many businesses have clamped down, but the effect has been a good one. The second white paper is called "From Workplace to Anyplace," and its focused more on the environmental and productivity impact of allowing employees to work remotely. The researchers call this the "smart" world scenario because not only would it slash a ton of emissions (actually 3.5 billion tons!) by the year 2050, using technology to collaborate can help cut out cycle times normally required to complete projects.
Now, about those frequent flyer miles. Seems to me like the airlines should be getting more creative about what sort of behavior they reward. How about you get a thumbs-up for spending a total percentage of your total fly time (albeit reduced) with one airline? Or, you can airline miles for WebEx minutes. I'm not a marketing genius, but something's going to change here, and soon.