Sani Marc Group’s virtual magazine

Why we need to rethink meetings

Last week I attended a meeting at one of our offices.  Those attending the meeting were a vendor from Atlanta, two vendor representatives, 6 employees from another one of our offices and me who lives 50 kms away from our office.  The meeting was informative and information regarding companies, products and possible applications were shared. But was this the best method of sharing this information?

First – let’s look at the environmental impact of the meeting

The trip from Atlanta’s carbon footprint was approx. .62 tonnes of carbon

The trip for 6 colleagues carbon footprint was approx .25 tonnes of carbon

The reps and my trip has a carbon footprint  of .05 tonnes each.

In total for the travel portion of this meeting, the basic carbon footprint was just over 1 tonne. 

Had we known the carbon footprint of this meeting ahead of time, would we have chosen to schedule this meeting using this traditional face to face meeting method?  The bigger question, what information needs to be presented to change our business behaviour?

The change in meetings behaviour usually has positive impact both on the environment and in time management.  By not doing my own trip, I would have reduced my carbon footprint by .05 tonnes and regained 2 hours of productive work time.  When you look at the possible annual impact, by avoiding this type of meeting once a week for 48 weeks, I could reduce my carbon footprint by 2.4 tonnes and gain 96 hours of productive work time.  This type of math can appeal to both the environmentalist and the accountant in any organization!

I am no advocating that we should abolish face to face meetings.  People are what make a company tick and face to face contact creates the connections that are necessary to creating effective relationships. However, we need to rethink the need for meetings and find ways to use technology to help make them both more efficient and to reduce our impact on the environment. 

Many meetings are scheduled out of habit instead out of need.  They usually include members that are only partially interested in the topic or have little direct involvement in the project.  You can usually tell which members these are as they are the ones that are multitasking and are answering emails on their computer or smartphone.

So next time you are in charge of setting up a meeting ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I need a face to face meeting or can a quick phone call, text or email transfer the information that is required?
  2. Do all the participants need to attend?  Do they need to attend the entire meeting?
  3. Before someone gets into a car, train or plane to attend the meeting, can the meeting be successfully completed using a conference call, webex, or other application?

Knowing the consequences of our actions will help to change our behaviour.  How many meetings would be combined, changed, or done some other way if the calculation of the environmental footprint was available prior to getting on that plane or in that car. Next time someone asks you to fly to a meeting don’t be afraid to question the need for such an extensive environmental footprint.  And when technology can replace airplane travel, thank the person who chose to use technology to get the message across.  It will reinforce that they are doing the right thing!

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