After years of inaction, it finally feels like the sustainability movement is gaining some momentum. While scientists have been leading conversations about climate change and resource depletion for decades, it’s only in the last few years that sustainability has started breaking into business conversations and influencing strategies. Now, companies around the world are starting to champion eco-friendly initiatives and reducing their carbon footprints.
The telecommunications industry is no exception. Around the world, telcos are incorporating sustainability into their core values, investing in green technologies, and harnessing renewable energy.
If you’re looking to start incorporating sustainability practices, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Here are 8 telcos who will inspire you with their efforts.
First up is Yettel Srbija, known as Telenor Srbija prior to 2022. Yettel is the country’s first 100% green mobile network and only uses energy from renewable sources. One of their four core values is “Responsible”, highlighting their dedication to sustainability.
A notable green initiative is their Eco Bonus program, which helps customers offset their environmental footprint. The average Serbian generates 6.8 kilograms of plastic and paper waste each month. Customers can opt-in to the paid add-on service, and an authorized waste management partner will collect and recycle that equivalent amount of waste on their behalf.
Electronics recycling also features heavily in their green strategy, with Yettel pledging to recycle one million mobile devices by 2025.
In a 2022 interview, CEO, Mike Michel, comments on the culture shift in his country, saying “I think that Serbian society is recognising that a healthy, green planet means a sustainable life for future generations. That is why our strong focus is on the promise of being in balance with nature. We want to minimise any negative impact on the environment and help customers to do the same.”
Next is Africa-based MTN Group. They have set a goal to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2040.
In their 2022 sustainability report, MTN Group describes their plans to reduce emissions and resource usage in each of their markets. One initiative is to move to e-SIMs to reduce plastic waste. For the physical SIM cards that remain, they’re optimizing the packaging to remove 50% of plastic waste from this item. They are also repairing and refurbishing telecom equipment, and like many telcos, are employing device recycling to further reduce their footprint.
In 2023, MTN Group partnered with Huawei. Among other things, this partnership will help them decarbonize their telecommunications infrastructure, including RAN sites, transport networks, storage and data centres.
Another African telco that’s setting a positive green example is Vodacom. Their sustainability strategy is detailed in their annual report. Vodacom outlines several targets around climate change, the circular economy, reducing energy and water consumption, and more. Vodacom has incorporate ESG factors into their strategy and has a committee that oversees performance.
One example that other companies should take note of is their “Responsible Supply Chain” objective, which requires every supplier that works with Vodacom to comply with their code of ethical purchasing. These standards include environmental, labour, and ethical requirements that must be followed by any supplier or sub-supplier, and compliance is assessed through on-site audits. It’s an important tactic that shows it’s possible to influence change and values on a wider scale beyond one’s own organization.
Vodacom is a great example of how meshing sustainability objectives into the company’s DNA can pay dividends.
Next up is Orange. Like others, they have committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040. They have recognized that 81.6% of their carbon emissions are from their IT systems, data centres, and servers. By implementing measures like server virtualization, natural ventilation, and solar energy, Orange will dramatically reduce their energy consumption. Orange is investing in solar farms to further reduce their energy demands and has deployed 4,750 solar sites in Africa and the Middle East.
Like other telcos, Orange is committed to device recycling as well as giving equipment new life that might otherwise end up in a landfill. They have set up reconditioning centres in Poland and Senegal for set-top boxes, which is important in countries that don’t yet have electronic disposal systems.
Together, these initiatives prove Orange is well on the sustainability path.
In Canada, TELUS is setting a great example for telcos around the world. TELUS has committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2025, having net carbon neutral operations by 2030 or sooner, and being zero waste by 2030.
From 2021-2023, they were recognized as one of Canada’s top 100 greenest employers. Over the same time frame, they have been recognized by Corporate Knights as being in the top 100 Global Most Sustainable Corporations, rising to the 37th position in 2023.
TELUS’ sustainability and ESG report details their investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and responsible waste management.
TELUS doesn’t limit themselves to the typical strategies when it comes to sustainability. Their green projects include planting 242,000 trees to mitigate climate impacts. They’re making real-estate more sustainable too. In partnership with Green Standards, TELUS has found a sustainable way to decommission offices, so that only a minority of items end up in the landfill. Instead, these items are resold, donated, recycled, or relocated.
TELUS is an excellent example of an organization that is working to create a sustainable future for all.
Etisalat is another telco that is setting a great example in the middle east. In late 2022, Etisalat committed to achieving net zero emissions from its operations by 2030. They also became the first UAE private sector entity to join the UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators (UICCA).
In 2023, Etisalat partnered with IBM to meet the goals of their ESG strategy. Together, they’ll use data technologies and automation to manage real-estate facilities, assets, and improve data centre environments.
Other initiatives include investments in renewable energy, moving to digital billing, and more. We applaud Etisalat’s for making sustainability a key part of their long-term strategy.
Headquartered in Kuwait, Zain Group is another Middle Eastern telco that’s helping drive a mindset change in a region that’s highly dependent on fossil fuels. Their goal is to reach net zero by 2050 and embed ESG principles across their value chain. They are one of a few companies in the region that participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project.
As you might expect, Zain experiences some unique challenges due to their geography, including high energy usage for cooling and water desalination. Additionally, the transition to renewable energy is hampered by physical space restrictions, high temperatures, and unstable power supplies. Despite this, Zain is investing in achievable programs to reduce their footprint, such as reforestation projects, educational campaigns, and waste management initiatives.
One notable initiative is recycling their outdoor billboard ads into shopping tote bags for their stores. Not only do these replace plastic bags, but they’re also used as an education tool to help raise environmental awareness among their customers.
Vodafone rounds out our list of sustainability-focused telcos. Vodafone aims to be net zero by 2040 and halve their environmental impact by 2025.
In 2022, Vodafone partnered with WWF on a phone trade-in and refurbishment program called one million phones for the planet. Customers can trade in their old devices for recycling, and a $1 donation will be made to WWF conservation projects around the world.
In their 2023 annual report, Vodafone outlines some key strategies, including increasing the number of electric vehicles to comprise 49% of their fleet, generating and sourcing renewable energy, reducing waste, and educating and empowering customers to make sustainable choices.
Vodafone is particularly committed to using technology to solve real-world problems, such as using IOT to better manage utilities and agricultural activities, tracking assets, and more. It’s a great example of how digital solutions can be the path forward in the sustainability fight.
No matter where you are in the world, living and doing business in a sustainable way is fast becoming the standard.
These telcos are leading in the way towards a greener, more sustainable future, and are setting a great example for others to follow along the way.
Are there any telcos we have missed? Is your company employing any unique sustainability initiatives? Share your ideas!