What are the Environmental Benefits of VoIP Technology?

With growing awareness of the climate crisis, many businesses are moving towards greener practices in the workplace. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) reduces the need for older, resource-heavy phone models, instead allowing businesses to focus on sustainability and eco-friendly strategies. By removing the energy and fossil fuel-guzzling features of ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), businesses can deliver quality customer service while setting a positive example for both clients and competitors.

In this article, we’ll look at the environmental benefits for businesses using VoIP technology. If you’d like to learn more about VoIP, what it is and how it works, our article ‘What is VoIP?’ has everything you need.

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The Environmental Impact of Legacy Communications

Historically, traditional telephony models have contributed to a lack of sustainability for businesses. While considerable energy consumption is one factor, the lack of flexibility and accessible features can have a domino effect on areas outside of communications.

Increased energy consumption

If you’ve used legacy phone systems, you’ll know they often rely on bulky physical hardware. This includes routers, sizable PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems and copper wire networks which require large amounts of energy to run. This continued consumption can mount up for businesses, especially those running an expansive call centre operation or similar.

Older systems often lack features like power-saving modes or resource allocation. This means they’re often left running continuously, using energy even when on standby. Along with a lack of automated features, organisations with higher call traffic often require a cooling component for their systems, creating additional power demand.

Growing carbon footprints

Energy consumption is only part of the story. Many of the main sustainability issues stem from what traditional telephony systems can’t do. Whether it’s a reliance on paper communication (depleting natural resources and using fossil fuels for transport), or a need for staff to commute to the office - the lack of flexibility only increases a business's carbon footprint.

Natural resource depletion 

An indirect contributor is the raw materials like copper and plastic used as part of legacy communications hardware and networks. Extracting these materials requires resource-heavy processes like mining, which can destroy natural habitats and disrupt local biodiversity. This can upset the natural balance, often leading to the decline of certain species and in turn driving animals from areas completely.

Manufacturing these components also includes a cooling process. This can require excess amounts of water, placing a strain on local resources in areas already facing drought conditions.

Disposal of unused hardware 

Due to a lack of scalability in older systems, unused hardware is often thrown away. A large portion of this non-biodegradable material gets sent to landfill or incineration, with 40% not being able to be recycled at all. This can lead to the release of toxic substances into the soil, air and ground or surface water - contaminating ecosystems and causing health hazards for wildlife and local communities. 

How VoIP can help businesses combat sustainability issues

Thankfully, many VoIP providers understand that repairing the damage already done is a long-term strategy. With this in mind, systems are now designed to minimise energy consumption, reduce electronic waste, and promote sustainability across business communication.

A focus on energy efficiency

VoIP systems require less physical hardware than traditional telephony, use less electricity and emit far less carbon emissions. Additionally, because they run off a broadband connection, VoIP makes it easier for staff to work and collaborate remotely. 

They can use instant messaging and VoIP’s built-in video conferencing features to work together as effectively as they would in person. In turn, this means less need for staff to commute, cutting carbon emissions further as a result. 

Sustainable practices 

VoIP is essentially a plug-and-play option, requiring little to no additional hardware. However, the hardware it does use is often durable, and thanks to certain eco-initiatives, able to have its lifespan extended.

E-waste management and recycling initiatives

Some VoIP providers offer refurbishment and reuse programs for outdated hardware. For businesses, this means you can return hardware to be refurbished for future use. This extends the lifespan of these components, while also cutting back on the electronic wastage caused by throwing them away. These initiatives often include the use of e-waste recycling facilities to ensure that when hardware is disposed of, it is done responsibly. 

Management of your VoIP hardware lifecycle

If you’re looking for a way to track and manage the lifespan of your system hardware, certain VoIP services come with lifecycle management. This helps you to understand how hardware is used and when systems need maintenance. It can also help you make informed decisions about replacing and disposing of parts of your systems.

Cloud-based VoIP solutions

Cloud-based VoIP systems, like T2K’s Gamma Horizon, don’t require on-premises hardware and are maintained by your provider. This helps to reduce the environmental impact associated with the manufacturing, transportation, and disposal of hardware components. Organisations can then be mindful of electronic waste and build a sustainable approach as a result.

Regulatory Compliance and Best Practices

By staying up to date with environmental regulations, you can learn how to promote eco-friendly practices when using VoIP. Here are some of the regulations to review when doing so.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) 

These regulations cover the disposal, recycling, and management of electronic waste. As VoIP hardware and equipment fall under these regulations, businesses are required to follow WEEE guidelines for responsible e-waste management. 

Energy efficiency regulations

Both the Energy Efficiency (EED) and the Energy-related Products (ErP) directives regulate the energy standards for using electronic devices and equipment. Reviewing these standards can help you learn about positively contributing to energy efficiency while using VoIP.

Renewable energy incentives

Other helpful initiatives for reducing your carbon footprint are the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. These government-run schemes help businesses with significant energy consumption to learn more about renewable energy mandates.

Sustainability reporting guidelines

For UK businesses, there are also voluntary sustainability guidelines such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Though not legally binding, businesses using VoIP have the option to disclose performance metrics; demonstrating a commitment to environmental responsibility.

Staying Proactive with Compliance and Risk Management

Acknowledging the risks and regulations involved with using VoIP helps to avoid any nagging legal issues. It can also give you a better understanding of how these guidelines can boost your eco-friendly actions.

Staying informed on relevant topics

To keep your finger on the pulse, it’s worth keeping up to date with environmental regulations and standards that apply to VoIP technology. These include e-waste regulations, energy efficiency standards, and data centre regulations. It’s also a good idea to monitor updates and changes in environmental legislation to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

Keeping track of your environmental impact

To understand how your business is contributing, you can conduct an assessment of the environmental impact of your VoIP usage. It should cover areas like energy consumption, e-waste generation, and resource usage - helping you identify areas of risk and improvement.

Following best practices 

Optimising energy usage, reducing e-waste, and promoting resource efficiency are key to meeting sustainability regulations. By using energy-efficient hardware, power management strategies and participating in e-waste recycling programs, you can work towards minimising your overall environmental impact.

Building workforce awareness 

By providing training and awareness for VoIP users within your business, you can highlight sustainability and compliance requirements across your workforce. This can help to promote eco-friendly behaviours, while also encouraging participation in sustainability initiatives inside and outside of the workplace.

Monitor the sustainability practices of third-party suppliers

Choosing the businesses you want to work alongside can be vital. It’s worth doing your research on VoIP providers and suppliers to make sure their practices lock in with your sustainability goals. You can also collaborate with your suppliers to promote sustainability throughout the supply chain. This may include the responsible sourcing of materials, energy-efficient product design, and e-waste management.

Always look to improve your sustainability strategies 

Of course, greener practices within your VoIP usage are a constant work in progress. To be effective in your goals, you should continuously monitor and evaluate environmental performance metrics within your business. This will help you to identify potential improvements while keeping an eye on which practices are mutually beneficial for your business and the environment. 

A Greener Future for Business Communications with VoIP

Beyond simply being a user-friendly, cost-effective and high-quality communication tool, VoIP has the potential to reshape how businesses care for the planet.

By leaning into its flexibility and integrations, businesses can look to reduce their carbon footprint through energy efficiency; while empowering staff to work remotely and cut down on travel-related emissions.

Through its many convenient features, VoIP can boost sustainability across your business,  serving as a reminder that technology offers so much more than our initial expectations.

If you’d like to learn more about how VoIP can help make your business more environmentally friendly, reach out to T2K today.

Lee Clarke
Sales Director

Having worked for T2k for nearly 25 years, it's fair to say that Lee is an expert when it comes to all things telephony and business communications. Overseeing the commercial side of the business, he has helped the company evolve and grow through the decades. In recent years, and with the advent of VoIP and hosted telephony, Lee has made sure that T2k is at the forefront of technological developments. With a firm interest in helping businesses navigate the world of telecoms, Lee is responsible for the majority of the content on this website.

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