Many innovative ideas at PricewaterhouseCoopers are coming from "green teams," grass-roots groups that have formed in 53 offices. "We've had a groundswell of people who want to be engaged," says Shannon Schuyler, PwC's corporate responsibility leader. Volunteers are turning off lights, shutting off laptops and monitors (a task that will soon be automated), and teaching others how to use videoconferencing. And they're constantly coming up with new ideas, which Schuyler collects in meetings every six weeks.
PwC has also seen a 30% decrease in travel since April, after it pledged during its "Green Week" to plant five trees for every videoconference scheduled. By August, it had committed to planting 4,200 saplings.
The reduction in travel was partly due to the recession, which made videoconferencing an attractive alternative to purchasing airline tickets, admits Shannon Schuyler, PwC's corporate responsibility leader. Will people still opt for videoconferencing once the economy picks up? That will be the real test, she says.
"Our experience suggests that once companies discover videoconferencing, it tends to stick," says Chris Mines, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. The technology works best for internal or joint team meetings, making it ideal for organizations with far-flung teams, like PwC's consulting business, he says.
And after an energy audit, office workers and management reduced office energy consumption. They also started using double-yield, 20,000-page toner cartridges, which halved the number of cartridges that needed to be recycled.
"It's like a snowball," Panian says. But it was those aggressive carbon-reduction targets that got the ball rolling.