Save the planet and save millions

06 Dec 2007

Following up on last issue's Streetwise column questioning the overwhelming deployment of wireless infrastructure and technologies in the market today, I did a quick a survey of the region's leading telecoms providers on their corporate energy strategies and awareness of global climate change.

The response rate to the survey was not surprising. The few operators that responded did so eagerly and are well aware of the issue while the majority did not respond at all. The responses themselves, however, show that going green for the environment is not only a marketing tool to boost the corporate image, but also yields some measureable financial benefits.

The survey, conducted as part of a new project, Green Telecom, consisted of an email sent to 40 operators - both fixed and mobile - in the region and asked the public relationship and press offices of the operators to answer three simple questions: Does the operator measure its carbon‾ Does the operator have a carbon reduction program in place‾ Does the operator use any form of renewable energy‾ Respondents were promised total anonymity unless otherwise requested by the respondents themselves.

Thirty-two operators did not respond to the survey. Of the eight responses (20% response rate) six operators answered positive to all three questions and two responded with all negatives.

Those companies that were aware of the challenges of climate change had a clear understanding of the issue and have already started or completed the complex task of auditing their carbon footprint, developing a carbon reduction strategy, setting clear targets for sustainable development, and are more than happy to talk about the issue.

It is fair to say that a portion of the respondents, due to language barriers, may have ignored the survey, but there is also reason to believe that many of the non-respondents ignored the survey questions because they were not prepared to answer questions on climate change.

British Telecom, Japan's NTT DoCoMo, Telecom New Zealand, Australia's Telstra and SingTel Optus and Smart Communications in the Philippines were the six operators that responded to the survey.

The most interesting finding is the fact that going green is not just about saving polar bears and stopping global warming, but offers the potential to save millions of dollars a year.

Walking the talk

For the 2006/2007 financial year, BT's efforts, which cut 34,100 tons of emissions, roughly 5% of its 640,000 tons of total emission for the period, through tighter corporate travel policies, the use of video conferencing for face-to-face meetings, and the implementation and encouragement of telecommuting by its workforce, resulted in costs savings with an environmental component of ‾29.3 million ($470 million). Telstra's improved energy-efficiency practices resulted in a direct saving of A$1.8 million ($1.6 million) in electricity bills.

In fact, all the operators that have implemented green strategies see it as an opportunity to become more efficient, in their use of resources, in their operational processes, in their way of doing business. After years of non-stop infrastructure investment to roll out network coverage and new services, this is a great opportunity for the telecoms industry to take some time to improve the efficiency of their systems and networks.

And since the majority of operators actually spend close of 90% of their electricity bill on powering their networks, any reduction as a result of more efficient systems translate into huge savings.

Oh, I almost forgot, they also become more responsible in the fight against climate change and get a good competitive differentiation in the process. Now that is what I call a win-win-win situation.

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