Should we give up om meeting face-to-face, or how does BlueLink minimize its environmental footprint?
BlueLink is a very environmentally minded network. Therefore, we often come across the difficult question of minimizing the ecological footprint of our work. But how to do this without weakening our organizational effectiveness?
Why travel for face–to-face meetings when we can meet online?
The specific occasion for this text is a discussion among members and partners of the Association for Progressive Communications, in which we have been members for decades. She started from the question of how justified it is to completely refuse to travel for live meetings when they can be held online.
At first glance, the question puts us in a paradoxical situation, as an organization created to promote and support the strategic use of the Internet and digital technologies by civil society, including for environmental purposes. Isn't it logical to go completely virtual and give up travel and face-to-face meetings, with the argument that this way we save carbon emissions?
An important element of the answer is that it is precisely based on decades of experience in using the Internet for civic purposes that have taught us to value... live communication. The digitization of human relationships has many advantages, but also hides great threats, as it is a completely new phenomenon from a historical and even evolutionary point of view. Without claiming psychological expertise in this case, based on purely empirical observations, we can confirm that live interpersonal communication is much more fulfilling than digital.
For known and unknown reasons, it seems that on the Internet people are more inclined to "harden" their positions and have a harder time listening to, understanding, and accepting the positions of others. This syndrome can be seen most clearly in social networks, where it seems much easier to confront than to agree.
That is why it is important for us at BlueLink to communicate live with people, partners, organizations, donors. Not always and not necessarily. But preferably, at least during the initial introduction, when making key decisions, during important and difficult discussions, we do better live.
Yet how do we measure our ecological footprint?
Using IT tools and the internet remains BlueLink’s core purpose. But the key word here is strategically! This means that we promote such digital instruments and tools, which enable civil society to fulfill its strategic goals - including nature protection. Tactical, everyday use and considerations do not prevail.
The same logic applies to measuring environmental footprint. While we do not have a written policy on this, BlueLink :
- aims to minimize its environmental footprint in principle; and
- applies a holistic approach to assessing its environmental footprint.
In other words, we measure the environmental footprint of all operations against the overall environmental impact from our work. Rather than measuring each activity or operational component separately.
Strategic environmental footprint assessment
Protecting the environment is part of our organizational mission. It is integrated in BlueLink's 4 year strategies, and pursued by many of our projects. As a result we amplify environmental movement's voices, strengthen it with tools and analyses, coordinate various coalitions, contribute to environmental/climate policy making and legislation; and enhance environmental journalism, raising general public's awareness.
The cumulative impact from our work against strategic goals set is assessed quarterly by the Executive Board, and annually by our Council. Should it be evaluated as inadequate or missing, we adjust operations to ensure that BlueLink contributes to improving the environment.
The environmental footprint of operations is assessed against this overall contribution in an ongoing basis by the operational management. This means, for instance, that we strictly:
- apply the refuse - reuse - recycle mode of operation when deciding on any time and money investments;
- opt for repairing and maintaining office equipment while possible, far beyond industry-set standards - but do not hesitate to buy new equipment when this is need for normal effective operations;
- invest in solar panels to minimize hot water costs and do not heat the offices outside of working hours - but would not allow our team to stay cold; and - to the point;
- refuse any travel request or face-to-face participation, unless it is found to be indispensable for accomplishing our action / strategic goals - but do not abstain from meaningful and useful travel and interaction. With this in mind, a BlueLink representative would only take a journey, spend working and personal time, spend money on any event or trip, if it is deemed absolutely useful for the overall environment protection purpose of the organization.
By sticking to these rules we also optimize our use of working time and financial resources, which increases the organization's overall efficiency. This is how in our small 'BlueLink economy' we ensure a net positive environmental impact. Should all companies and organizations do the same, we shall live in a greener world, and still be able to freely meet and communicate humanly, face to face, when needed.
Another important issue
To be able to continue supporting the strategic use of IT instruments and the inetrnet by human rights and environment defenders, we need your support! So please, make a donation to the BlueLink Foundation. You can also help us with voluntary work and expertise. To learn more about BlueLink's actions and strategic mission, do not hesitate to get in touch!
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