Is Business Travel Anti-Green And Unnecessary? - InformationWeek

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05:42 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall

Is Business Travel Anti-Green And Unnecessary?

Business travel hasn't waned much, if at all, despite the emergence of globe-shrinking technologies like Web conferencing and virtual worlds. Will the green movement finally kill it?

Business travel hasn't waned much, if at all, despite the emergence of globe-shrinking technologies like Web conferencing and virtual worlds. Will the green movement finally kill it?That was the topic of a group discussion Monday morning at Interop's Energy Camp program.

The question was whether business travel has become an albatross at a time when workers can accomplish most things over the Internet and companies are trying to present a greener face to the world.

There was a consensus that travel for routine events can and should be eliminated, but that face-to-face encounters will always be essential for major business occasions such as closing the big deal or mapping out a transformational IT project.

For the routine stuff, it was evident that a lot companies, large and small, a getting pretty creative when it comes to finding ways to avoid the $3,000, ozone-decimating trip across the country.

An Energy Camp attendee from Nortel said the telecom company has deployed a state-of-the-art Web conferencing system to connect employees from different offices. "This isn't like the old stuff; you can really see the sweat on the other guy's face," she said.

She also noted that Nortel is experimenting with holding meetings online in Second Life-like virtual worlds.

Others in the group said companies aren't doing enough to make business travel as efficient as possible. "How do you maximize time in a location?" asked James Governor, a partner in IT consultancy RedMonk. One way Governor tries to accomplish that is through a Web service called Dopplr, which bills itself as "an online tool for frequent business travelers." Dopplr lets road warriors create online maps of their travel plans that are accessible to colleagues and business associates.

Who knows when you might be in the same city at the same time as an important contact? It's a way to promote serendipitous get-togethers and reduce travel. Of course, there could be drawbacks. "You might not want competitors seeing where you're going to be," said one attendee.

Some companies are shaming employees into traveling less. One attendee noted that a former employer posted workers' monthly travel spending on a public bulletin board.

Others in the group wondered if there's a generational addiction to business travel, and whether younger workers -- weaned on Facebook and MySpace and IM -- will be less inclined to hop on a plane for meetings once they break into management ranks.

The larger question remains.

Should companies forgo business travel as much as possible in order to cut their carbon footprints? Or is this just another business fad that will pass?

What do you think?

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