10 December 2004

10/12. Green activist slams government's teleworking policy - more on

From the New Mobility Cafe and the xWork Cafe:

Dear World Wide Sustainability Advocates:

Let me build on these very useful observations (see below) over this one day and in turn by Porritt, Finn, Pardo and Litman, and who together do a very good job indeed of mapping the issues, for my part I would like to pitch in with a couple of words why I like telework and its tele-ilk by whatever name as a sustainability strategy, and how it fits into our I hope soon famous New Mobility Agenda.

1. It is a policy with at least some relevance and usefulness in the face of the challenges of the transition to a more sustainable transportation system.

2. At best it will solve only a small part of the whole huge challenge, and that in different ways and proportions in different places.

3. It falls into a broader class of what I like to call “2% solutions”.. of which quite clearly there must be very many in order to make the move to sustainability. The many small parts of what Phil Goodwin called memorably and years ago “packages of measures”.

If we can put telework into this perspective, we will be able to do some useful things with it. Albeit very different things in different places. If we forget it, or if we give it too much importance as a technology mediated magic wands of some sort, well then we are only hopelessly optimistic and stupid.

That said, I feel that If we have that one straight, we can then set out to find the other 49 measures that we need to concatenate to have a chance. Stay tuned. Pitch in. And of course make yourself heard… also please copying to both NewMobility@yahoogroups.com and sustran-discuss@list.jca.apc.org (since we have only some overlap in membership and the issue is important for us all).

From a gray Paris,

Eric Britton

PS. I have copied the four earlier posts in this series as neatly as I could here, in the order in which they came in. Diligent housekeeper that I am.

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-----Original Message-----
Sent: 10 December 2004 11:19
To: XWorkCafe@yahoogroups.com; Sustran-discuss@jca.ax.apc.org
Subject: [Sustran] Green activist slams government's teleworking policy

Ingrid Marson, ZDNet UK, December 09, 2004, 14:25 GMT

More at:
1. 1. Source: http://news.zdnet.co.uk/business/0,39020645,39179945,00.htm
2. 2. Click here to download a free copy of the report.
http://www.forumforthefuture.org.uk/publications/
3. 3. Click here to share your views with group : mailto:XWorkCafe@yahoogroups.com

Jonathon Porritt, ex-director of Friends of the Earth, has criticised government reports on teleworking as 'tokenist'

An environmental charity has called on the UK government to revise its policy on teleworking and encourage organisations to use it as part of their environmental policy.

On Wednesday Forum for the Future launched a report on teleworking which showed how it can be used to reduce the impact that companies have on the environment and promote sustainable economic development.

Jonathon Porritt, the programme director of the charity, said government reports on teleworking do not have enough information on how it can be used to improve sustainability. In particular, he criticised a report produced by the Department for Trade and Industry in 2003, entitled Telework Guidance, and a report by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister as respectively having "tokenistic references" and "only the odd tokenistic paragraph" on how businesses should use teleworking to reduce their environmental impact.

"The government in every level has got to stop pussy-footing around with sustainable development and embed in its practice," said Porritt.

The charity's report, entitled "Encouraging Green Teleworking", found that teleworking reduces the need for transport and will therefore contribute to achieving the government's targets on cutting carbon dioxide emissions. This is a necessity for the government after its admission on Wednesday that it will fail to meet its target on cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2010 -- something Porritt didn't duck during his speech.

"The Prime Minister thinks it's a pretty ambitious goal to achieve its climate change goal of 20 percent," said Porritt. "Well, so do I when I look at the government policy."

Sun, which commissioned the charity's report and has had a teleworking policy for five years, initially started its policy on teleworking due to the problems of traffic congestion during the dot-com boom, according to Richard Barrington, the head of government affairs at Sun.
"Part of the reason we started doing this was because of congestion," said Barrington at the launch event. "We did it purely because people were just sat in cars on roads. We started with drop-in centres along motorways -- industrial units where we had scattered technology."
Employees at Sun save two hours commuting time per week through teleworking, according to the report.

Companies can also save money by cutting down on the amount of office space needed. Sun has reduced its office space needs by 25 percent in the last four years through teleworking, according to the report.

But one environmental downsides of teleworking is that it requires more hardware, which requires extra resources to produce and creates more waste. One way to minimise this impact is for companies to use thin clients. Barrington said that a significant number of Sun employees in the States are already using thin clients at home and it is in the process of rolling out thin clients to home workers across the UK.

Porritt said that the technology side of teleworking is something which is likely to attract the government. "There's one bit of the sustainability that the government should like -- teleworking -- because its wonderously high-tech and glossy…it's lots of whizzy machines."
One important aspect of implementing teleworking is change management, something which Barrington says Sun is still dealing with.

"We still have a significant percentage of managers who don't like this, who think 'If I can't see, I can't manage, as I don't know what you're doing,'" said Barrington. "But if you treat people like adults or grown-ups, they tend to respond in kind."

Porritt has had a long involvement with environmental issues in the UK -- he was the Chairman of the Green Party in the 80s, was the director of Friends of the Earth for a number of years until he left in 1996 to set up Forum for the Future. He was appointed chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, the government's independent advisory body on sustainable development, in 2000.

In response to Porritt's comments, the government said that it was focused on giving companies practical advice on teleworking.

"Of course we recognise there are very important environmental benefits to teleworking. The guidance last year was intended for practical use for employers and employees," said a DTI spokesman.

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On Behalf Of Brendan Finn
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2004 12:44 PM
Subject: [sustran] Re: Green activist slams government's teleworking policy

Teleworking is good for those whose work permits it. I agree that it has huge potential, especially in countries with a knowledge economy.

A lot of attention has been paid to technical, organisational, oversight, the arrangements within the home (or local office/desk), and self-management issues – i.e. to the work itself.

Two aspects that must also be considered :

a) The amenities where you are located – if it’s dead suburbia, you don’t really have access to very much during the day. After a while, that’s not a lot of fun.

b) The local transportation system. Public transport is designed to take you to/from the city centre, along the key arteries. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT designed for the local run-about journeys of 2-3 km. These are, of course, the typically journeys of home-makers and teleworkers.

I’d be very interested to see whether the great ecological savings from the commute to downtown or out-of-town cube-farm is offset by a huge amount of local trips, and even if people have found themselves having to BUY ANOTHER CAR because the local transportation doesn’t serve them. And as we all know, short trips by car are ecologically the worst.

Personal example at this stage. I work from home when I’m in Ireland (about half the time, my journey to work distance should make an interesting distribution). I’m in the suburbs of Dublin, good bus service to city centre. But there’s nothing for the local trips. What I can do in 5 minutes by car takes about a half-hour on foot, and probably as long when I factor in wait time – for the few trips that I could do by bus. I was spending more time on simple errands (pick up some stationary, computer accessories, call to travel agent, plus personal stuff) than I ever did in the daily commute. In August I finally gave in – me, a lifelong public transport advocate – and bought a car for the local trips. (The shame, the shame!).

The answer definitely lies in local flexible transport – probably a combination of small bus-based and affordable taxi – where we can get low-fare trips in shared vehicles at a level of service that is close to taxi. Tariffs would be higher than regular bus, but probably not too much more. Problem is, the city authorities don’t want to know (they have lovely highway plans), and both the bus operators and the taxi operators see it as a threat.

Anyone else got perspectives on this ?

Brendan Finn,
ETTS, Ireland.

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-----Original Message-----
On Behalf Of Todd Alexander Litman
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2004 3:57 PM
Subject: [sustran] Re: Green activist slams government's teleworking policy


I think it may be a mistake to overemphasize telework alone as an environmental strategy. It certainly provides user benefits by allowing people to increase their housing and work location options, and to avoid some trips, but telework vehicle travel reductions and energy savings tend to be partly offset in the following ways:

· Teleworkers often make additional vehicle trips to run errands that would otherwise have been made during a commute.

· Employees may use teleworking to move further from their worksite, for example, choosing a home of job in a rural area or another city because they know that they only need to commute two or three days a week. In some cases this may encourage more urban sprawl.

· Vehicles not used for commuting may be driven by other household members.

· Telecommuters may use additional energy for home heating and cooling, and to power electronic equipment.

· Improved telecommunications may increase people’s long-distance connections, resulting in more travel. For example, people may make new friends through the Internet, and travel more to visit them.

I believe that telework should be supported as a transportation option, but to significantly reduce external costs such as congestion, energy consumption and pollution emissions it must be matched with incentives to reduce driving such as higher fuel taxes, road and parking pricing, and distance-based vehicle insurance. Without those incentives, telework may provide little net benefit to society. For more information see the "Telework" chapter of the Online TDM Encyclopedia (http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm43.htm).

Best wishes, Todd Litman

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-----Original Message-----
On Behalf Of Carlos Felipe PardoS
ent: Friday, December 10, 2004 4:31 PM

Other than that, I think telecommuting may have a "psychological" downside- or beneficial aspects. I explain myself:

Telecommuters may not in touch with any other people in a long time, since they are "stuck" at home working by themselves. On the other hand, they may spend more time with their family (if they have any wife or children). Sometimes we should think of commuting as another way of
knowing the world, and of interacting.

I think the option should be to promote another kind of mobility: leisure trips in sustainable modes, while working at home. The hour or so that people had "available" for their home-work-home trip can be spent in these leisure activities during the day- walking in a nearby park, riding a bicycle somewhere, etc.

Lastly, one or two days of the week should be taken for running errands. That way, interacting can be solved, congestion may be lowered and people could improve their life quality.

But maybe this is too much of an illusion. Just thought that another point of view different from the technical one- thank you Todd- could be of use in this discussion. Does anyone else have another opinion?

Carlos F. Pardo cpardo@cable.net.co
(+573) 00 268 1389 (+571) 310 6218
Cr 4 # 66-54 Bogotá- Colombia

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