In recent years, sustainability has become one of the hottest topics around the world in pretty much every industry. Before this, the ICT industry’s impact on the planet went under the radar for a long time, however, in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the spotlight is now being shone on the industry’s environmental impact with a call for many companies to do better. According to a BCG report, the ICT industry accounts for approximately 3% to 4% of global CO2 emissions, which is about twice that of the civil aviation industry. The telecommunications industry represents a sizable portion of the ICT industry, therefore, most major telcos have agreed to work towards carbon neutrality by 2050, which is a goal supported by the GSMA.
The vital role that the mobile industry plays in society came into sharp focus during the pandemic, when billions of people became reliant on mobile technology and connectivity in nearly all aspects of life. For example, by the end of 2020, approximately four billion people, which is equivalent to 51% of the global population, were using the internet, an increase of 220 million since 2019. Therefore, with many people and other industries becoming reliant on the ICT industry, there is a major focus on sustainable development and a huge strive for companies to become ‘green telcos’.
Green telcos are telecommunications companies who are adopting green and sustainable business practices. They are becoming increasingly more visible in the industry and according to the GSMA, the mobile industry is already halfway to maximising its impact of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Taking all this into account, we’re taking a look at some of the top 10 most sustainable telcos, in no particular order.
CEO: Stéphane Richard
In 2020, Orange launched their ‘Green Act’, a programme to encourage both the company and its stakeholders to place environmental issues at the heart of their processes and activities. They strongly believe that technological advancements must be useful to both man and the environment, meaning they defend ethical and responsible technology. They also focus on sustainable growth and this takes centre stage in their Engage 2025 plan.
CEO: Kelly Bayer Rosmarin
Optus’s sustainability approach is focused on reducing waste through their re-designed sim card packaging. They are committed to saving around 50 tonnes of cardboard each year as well as recycling 98.5% of their provider’s waste. Their vision is to ‘deeply embed sustainability in our culture, values, decision-making, operations, products and services to create a sustainable business.’ They also place a heavy focus on responsibly sourcing products by working closely with their suppliers on the environmental and social aspects of the supply chain.
CEO: José María Álvarez-Pallete López
Telefónica invests in technological solutions which focus on social and environmental impacts and boasts a Sustainable Innovation Initiative, where they select and promote disruptive ideas from employees, suppliers, startups and universities to face global challenges. They ensure that these solutions do not have a negative impact on the planet by guaranteeing the use of sustainable materials, incorporating eco-design criteria, properly managing waste and maximizing energy efficiency.
TPG Telecom, a recently merged entity of TPG and Vodafone, owns Felix Mobile and although it is a relatively new company, it is already powered by 100% renewable energy which is achieved by investing in renewable energy projects across the country. The company’s carbon emissions are neutralised by supporting certified Carbon Offset schemes both in Australia and internationally and they have pledged to to plant one tree per subscriber, per month with the goal to plant one million trees within the first year.
CEO: Urs Schaeppi
“Swisscom sets global standards in the area of sustainability” - Urs Schaeppi, CEO.
Together with their customers, Swisscom wants to save 800,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2025. This corresponds to one percent of Switzerland’s greenhouse gas emissions. They already use 100% of their electricity from renewable sources and according to their Head of Corporate Responsibility, Saskia Günther, “Swisscom has been a climate-neutral company since summer 2020.”
CEO: Mike Sievert
“We frequently evaluate our environmental impacts to determine how we can make significant improvements or offset the impacts of our operations” - Chad Wilkerson, Director, Sustainability & Infrastructure Sourcing.
T-Mobile’s vision is to take ‘immediate and ambitious action to create a more sustainable future’. The company uses huge amounts of energy, about 6.9 million megawatt hours (MWh) in 2020 alone, to power their un-carrier networks, their stores, offices and more. To minimise their usage, T-Mobile is focused on using energy efficient technologies across their network and all of their facilities and by also investing in renewable sources to offset the energy they do use. They also have a Device Reuse and Recycling program and in 2020 they collected more than 7.9 million devices for reuse, resale, and recycling.
CEO: Jana Kotatko
Belong holds the title as Australia’s first entirely carbon neutral telco. They have developed a ‘Carbon Thumbprint’ app which allows users to see their environmental impact. Your ‘carbon thumbprint’ is the amount of greenhouse gas you personally contribute through use of the mobile network. It is measured based on the emissions associated with mobile infrastructure, such as towers and cables and also takes the mobile phone itself into account too.
CEO: Joost Farwerck
KPN is one of the world’s greenest companies and are committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Since 2011, they’ve been using 100% green electricity and have been completely climate neutral since 2015. Since then, they have created and developed their LoRa Network, which allows devices to communicate easily with each other. For example, council waste management services can check remotely whether litter bins are full so garbage trucks can skip empty bins, allowing cities to reduce CO2 emissions.
CEO: Andy Penn
As Australia’s leading telecommunications and technology company, Telstra has a vital role to play in helping customers and society adapt to technological change and the opportunities it brings. Therefore, the company became fully carbon neutral in June 2020 and their Environment Strategy focuses on using technology to address environmental challenges as well as helping suppliers, customers and communities do the same. Some of their key focuses include:
- Managing Carbon Emissions – Reducing carbon emissions intensity by 50% by 2020.
- Climate Change Resilience – Ensuring climate change risks are embedded in our Networks for the Future program.
- Low-carbon Economic Growth – Enabling a low carbon economy by helping reduce our customers’ carbon emissions.
- Resource Efficiency – Reusing or recycling 60 tonnes of old mobile phones and increasing Telstra’s waste recycling rate to 42% by 2020.
- Environment Management – Achieving best practice environmental management.
CEO: Keri Gilder
Colt is putting environmental awareness at the heart of everything they do and therefore are ensuring they reduce their environmental impact globally and make sustainability a key strategic driver within the company. As part of their sustainability journey, Colt is committed to achieving global net zero emissions for all their operations by 2030. They are also working towards Zero Waste to Landfill by ensuring all waste is prevented by either recycling or reusing. This includes waste from network equipment, IT equipment, office equipment and the supply chain.
Colt has also subscribed to EcoVadis, a global index which benchmarks a company's environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance against more than 75,000 other organisations across all industries. Their most recent industry ranking placed them in the 91st percentile, with a score of 63. Earning them a Silver medal and a place in the top 10% of telco companies registered for ESG performance.