Moving to "Zero Email"

Email and email attachments have less environmental impact than physical delivery. But email is not without its own costs, both in terms of energy/carbon footprints and organizational productivity. A French company has taken a hard look at this and announced that it will move toward "zero email". At the same time, a German company has stopped its servers from routing some email after hours.

Information technology services giant Atos discovered these external and internal trends:

The volume of emails we send and receive is unsustainable for business. It is estimated that managers spend between 5 and 20 hours a week just reading and writing emails. Furthermore, they are already using social media networking more and spend around 25 per cent of their time searching for information.
- By 2013, more than half of all new digital content will be the result of updates to, and editing of existing information
- Online social networking is now more popular than email and search
- Middle managers spend more than 25% of their time searching for information
- In 2010 Corporate users received some 200 mails per day, 18% of which were spam

Atos is focused on email's impact on the organization and its people. Chairman and CEO Thierry Brenton writes, "We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives. At Atos we are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organizations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution."

Excessive email is also problematic form economic and environmental perspectives. Repeatedly emailing collaborative work product around an organization results in 'multiple instancing' of documents. These all requirement increasing bandwidth and storage, which have their own energy/carbon footprints. The situation is compounded by email's SMTP protocol, which increases the size of emails and attachments by 30%. And at an average $25/GB/month burdened cost, all this storage gets expensive, too.

We have long advocated replacing email with collaborative tools that support 'single instancing'. Atos has reached that conclusion, as well. "…it is encouraging the use of tools such as Office Communicator and has set up social community platforms to share and keep track of ideas on subjects from innovation and Lean Management through to sales. Initial feedback is that these types of tools reduce email by between 10 and 20% immediately." Atos says this is all part of the 'smart organization'.

The BBC reports on another company that is throttling back on email use. Volkswagen's "servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of [non-executive] employees' shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work." The German car manufacturer has done this in collaboration with its employees to improve quality of life; we see it as likely to reduce the overall email footprint, as well.

Learn about the energy/carbon footprint of global spam.

Learn about the stroage's Green ICT opportunities.