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Leading by Example: Telcos Show How Technology Can Help Achieve Sustainability Goals, Sustainability

Telecom operators around the world highlighted the progress they are making towards their ambitious carbon neutrality goals and identified the most effective technologies and processes to achieve their environmental goals.

Although many network operators have committed to measurable targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2e) emissions and find more sustainable ways of operating, only a few in EMEA have taken advantage of World Environmental Protection Day. environment on June 5 to share measurable results.

The Vodafone Group, for example, reduced its energy consumption slightly from 5,997 GWh in the 2021 financial year to 5,926 GWh in the financial year ending March 31, 2022. And this despite the volume of traffic of data circulating on its networks which continues to increase and must extend the networks to meet the demand. He also noted that the share of electricity from renewable sources stands at 77% at group level for the 2022 financial year against 55% the previous year. The company estimates that this resulted in a 23% drop in its Scope 1 carbon emissions (direct, from sources owned or controlled by the company) and its Scope 2 carbon emissions (indirect, from production of electricity, heating, cooling) to 1.09 million tonnes of CO2 emitted.

The group has also highlighted savings on its carbon footprint throughout its supply chain (scope 3 carbon emissions) after identifying the suppliers and markets that contribute the highest emissions.

Particularly noteworthy in Vodafone’s statement is that since 2020 it has saved customers nearly 23 million tonnes of CO2e through its Internet of Things (IoT) services, which include logistics, fleet management and smart meters. According to the operator, 49% of its 150.1 million IoT connections have “directly enabled customers to reduce their own emissions over the past year”, which has avoided 15.6 million tons of CO2e. This figure represents more than 14 times the Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions generated as a result of Vodafone’s operations. Through its offerings, the company aims to help its business customers reduce their own environmental footprint by 350 million tonnes by 2030.

Along with IoT products and services, Vodafone has also benefited from reducing e-waste, which it described as its “biggest hardware environment issue”. Of the 8,800 tonnes of waste it has generated so far this year, it claims to have recovered and recycled 95%.

It has also saved €10.8 million in expenses and more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2e since the start of 2022 thanks to its internal asset marketplace.

Vodafone has also launched campaigns to boost the circular economy and is a founding member of the Eco Rating labeling system, which identifies the most sustainable mobile devices. It has also been using 100% renewable electricity in its European markets since July 2021. (See Vodafone powered only by renewable electricity in Europe.)

It makes a noticeable difference: in its UK operations alone, carbon emissions fell by 55% in the financial year ending March 2022. Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam added in a blog post separate that its first self-powered mast, which has been in trials since last year, will go live in a few months. “If the concept works well, we will roll out more,” he added.

While Essam noted progress in encouraging customers to trade in their old devices, it said there was “lots of potential” for such initiatives to grow.

Also in the UK, Virgin Media O2 chief technology officer Jeanie York reaffirmed the operator’s “focus on sustainability”. She particularly stressed that 5G networks are contributing to “a more efficient, more productive and more sustainable way of communicating with each other and this must be at the heart of any effort to upgrade the UK’s digital infrastructure”.

York argued that efforts should not stop at recycling hardware, using renewable energy sources and cooling data centers in sustainable ways. “We need to go further and harness the power of digital connectivity to drive environmental change,” she said. York cited examples of some of the measures underway at Virgin Media O2, including: Planned improvements to air quality, public health and energy infrastructure; and identify sustainable best practices in sectors such as agriculture and autonomous vehicles, supported by the development of peripheral ecosystems. She added that the telecommunications sector plays a crucial role in helping other industries achieve carbon neutrality, especially through the opportunities for digital workplaces and the efficiencies generated by the IoT.

In the Middle East and Africa, the Zain Group released an in-depth report, The Climate Crisis – Achieving Net-Zero for a Sustainable Future, to highlight the key issues the industry needs to address to achieve better environmental sustainability. . He noted that there is a “duality in the impact of technology on the environment” and therefore the ICT sector requires monitoring and evaluation so that it provides environmentally friendly solutions. While the operator stressed that IoT services, powering data centers with renewable energy and reducing e-waste are important steps towards a greener environment, he stressed that “concerted efforts and collaboration across industries, coupled with substantial investment, must take place to ensure that efficiency and renewable energy sources are used to drive efforts to transform society into a low-carbon economy”.

– Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, TelecomTV


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