Just as charity should begin at home, there seems to be a reason to suggest that corporate sustainability could begin at the office.
It is no longer a stray thought that the internal communication processes at modern-day offices have become unsustainable. Studies have found that employees spend an average of one-third of their times over emails. Atos, a French company, is reportedly planning to do away with email for all internal communication and move on to a social media styled platform instead by 2014.
A former French finance minister Thierry Breton likened Atos’ ‘zero-email’ project to “reducing environmental pollution after the industrial revolution.”
How could such a project be greener and more sustainable? And before that, how has email become a relatively unsustainable medium?
Email is characteristically an IT tool that has done a fantastic job of transporting the traditional office communication processes into the e-world. It won’t be an overstatement to say that it tends to bureaucratize communication. It also seems to serve as a tool that supports status quos and hierarchies in an otherwise flattening corporate world and as such could be creating fuzzy communication roadblocks in untold ways within an organization. 
It actually appears ironic that in a corporate world that lays so much growing emphasis on innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, email perpetuates ‘inbox’ and ‘outbox’ approaches to communication, literally. 
Social media, one the other hand, may be seen as a stream of flowing thoughts and diverse perspectives that could often be stimulating and encouraging. Even the number of ‘likes’ could be an indicator of how well a thought is received by the intended audiences. 
By comparison, when was it last when you received an email in your box that was quite stimulating or sent out an email communication that generated enthusiastic responses? 
Hard to measure, is it?
Well, that’s precisely another feature that makes social media a more befitting platform for communication—the response to a social-media post can be vastly and immediately more measurable than that to an email.
More significant, however, is the potential of freeing employees of the strain and fatigue of communicating in ‘boxed’ ways that are often just for-the-sake-of-it and non-productive too.
Now, a loss of employee productivity obviously has a financial cost associated with it, and there also is a increased carbon footprint in the form of wasteful server uptime. Also, it leads to employees spending more time to complete actual work, which means their work-life balance and social lives are negatively impacted too. Isn’t that contradictory to the essential principles of corporate sustainability?
If yes, there’s more. 
More than 80 percent of all emails were spams, according to a Kasperskey report for 2011, though declining trends were reported for some of the months in 2012. 
So even if just the internal communication moved from the email to social media, a significant portion of the spam would get killed in the process. As a corollary, the corporate world’s carbon footprint on account of communication would come down significantly. 
Lastly, how about corporate processes other than email? Isn’t it likely that many other 1.0 legacies could be burdening our 2.0 organizations? If so, could there be a whole new view of looking at corporate sustainability?
(First published in Sustainuane, at  www.sustainuance.com

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