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How green are your collaboration tools? Cisco is giving answers

Cisco is rolling out a new tool to track the emissions produced by its Webex devices.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer
cisco webex desk pro
Image: Cisco

The digital collaboration boom of the past few years has made it easier than ever to communicate with others remotely. On the face of it, this is a huge win for efforts to reduce carbon emissions: traveling for business is perhaps less necessary than ever. 

However, the energy spent powering up teleconferences is adding up. This takes a toll on the environment that can be hard to measure, so Cisco is introducing a new tool that aims to address that concern. The new Carbon Emissions Insights feature, found in the Webex Control Hub, will tell IT administrators how much energy their Webex devices are consuming and their carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. 

Carbon Emissions Insights, coming this summer, will be enabled by default in the Control Hub and available for free to all customers. The data can also be exported through an API for integration into customer sustainability reporting tools. 

"Imagine you're a large enterprise with thousands of these devices," Javed Khan, Cisco's SVP and GM of collaboration, said to ZDNET. "Especially in today's world, where usage is continually changing as people think about coming back into the office -- it's going to give you a view of that."

Also: Business travel, energy consumption in the spotlight as sustainability jumps up the agenda

Increasingly, businesses have to answer to government regulators, shareholders, and other stakeholders who want to know more about their carbon emissions. This past year, according to Gartner, was the first year surveyed CEOs called environmental sustainability a top 10 strategic business priority.

"Sustainability in general is a big topic these days," said Khan. "When you talk to CEOs, they want their suppliers and partners also to be doing more about it."

screenshot of the webex control hub, showcasing the sustainability section
Image: Cisco

Tracking the energy consumption of their Cisco devices can help an organization more accurately measure their scope 2 emissions, which are associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling.

"We already had a lot of this data -- this is not something you can build overnight," Khan said with respect to the Carbon Emissions Insights feature, calling it unique in the collaboration hardware market. 

Also: 6 best ways to make your gadget use greener (and save money, too)

Cisco thinks the new feature could have a real impact on emissions tracking, given how many customers use its collaboration hardware -- the company has shipped more than 100 million Cisco collaboration devices. 

In addition to tracking emissions, the Carbon Emissions Insights feature can help customers make decisions to optimize their energy consumption and their usage of Cisco collaboration devices. For instance, it can point IT admins to Webex's Office Hours and allow them to reduce their energy usage. 

Also: Tech and sustainability: How companies are getting started

Meanwhile, Cisco has other sustainability tracking and recommendation tools in the works, Khan said. For instance, the tech giant has plans to provide customers with guidance around metrics such as room temperature -- a Cisco device could track a room's temperature and recommend when the blinds should be pulled down to optimize air-conditioning usage. 

Cisco also plans to help customers track the emissions they're producing when they use other Cisco products, including networking equipment or software platforms.

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