Slack is a dominant workplace communication platform that was used with great results at the online NIME 2020 conference. Previous discussions have highlighted certain issues that may limit its viability for future conferences (10k message storage limit, prohibitively expensive premium licence, potential privacy concerns). In addition to these, we examine whether there are environmental costs associated with Slack that could be reduced by using an alternate platform.
Are there significant environmental costs associated with Slack that would be reduced by switching to another platform?
What are the sustainability practices of Slack Technologies?
Are there alternative platforms that are tested, reliable, and scalable to accommodate the NIME conference?
Little is found online about the environmental practices of Slack Technologies. They are, however, part of a 21-company alliance entitled Step Up Declaration, "dedicated to harnessing the power of the fourth industrial revolution to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all economic sectors and ensure a climate turning point by 2020". Step Up Declaration is in turn part of an initiative called Mission 2020.
In their statement, Slack announced the following commitments to environmental action:
become fully carbon neutral by 2030
eliminate single-use placstics from buildings by 2030
support regenerative and sustainable agriculture through purchasing
champion inclusive communities
According to this article, the paid version of Slack relies on Amazon Web Services. Additionally, the article claims that Slack is involved with tax avoidance and excessive enumeration of executives. More research is needed.
Some alternatives to Slack have been proposed:
Both options can be self-hosted which, depending on host server, may provide sustainability benefits. More research is necessary to evaluate potential advantages of these alternatives over Slack. Also it is unclear if similar limitations exist for these platforms (eg. message limits on free tiers, subscription costs for 'pro' features)
ethicalconsumer.org guide to video conferencing (paid subscription required to view full article)