Everyone wants to be a sustainability leader
- With no foolproof way to determine real consumption and savings..
- ...perhaps everyone can be
- At what date is your CSP aiming to become a net zero emitter?
The telecoms industry, ever competitive, now seems to be taking its adherence to sustainability goals and pledges not just seriously, but with an edge of competitive brio added in for good measure.
The latest moves include a long term scene-setter by the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance which has just published its white paper on 6G. It sets out its belief that 6G must be steered by the UN sustainability goals, and it ranks Societal Goals as its number one driver for 6G along with Market Expectations and Operational Necessities. The last two go without saying, so there’s no doubt that it hopes this ‘G’ will be characterised and remembered for its ‘societal aspects’ (clumsy name, they need something better) as the G that grew up and became responsible. (See - What is 6G? The NGMN Alliance offers some foundational ideas).
And yesterday the GMSA, also a keen advocate for sustainability within the telecoms industry, noted that the industry’s race to net zero emissions is gaining pace as the UN’s Race To Zero campaign declares that the industry has made a critical ‘Breakthrough’. More than a third of the mobile industry, by revenue, has now credibly committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, it pointed out.
So hopefully mobile tech is not to be thought of as a destroyer of worlds, but a saviour of at least one - ours. So what about the actual service providers?
Also this week, Telefonica has announced that it has become one of the first of 100 companies (strange way to boast) to join The Climate Pledge, an initiative co-founded by Amazon and the NGO Global Optimism, for companies that commit to achieving net-zero carbon by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement target date. Telefónica says it subscribes to SBTi's Net Zero definition by committing to reduce emissions across its value chain in line with the 1.5ºC scenario and to neutralise the remainder by purchasing carbon credits for CO2 absorption, preferably through nature-based solutions.
Telefónica is keen to emphasise that it is no climate change ‘Juan-y-come-lately’ and has already reduced its emissions by 61% since 2015 for Scope 1 and 2 and by 27% for Scope 3 since 2016. Its networks are becoming greener by the day, it says, and all this while data traffic on its networks has increased 5-fold.
You can probably see where this is going. Keep an eye on that target date and watch it being whittled down.
Telia Company has also announced new goals this week and its aim is to empower (or should that be disempower?) societies in the Nordics and Baltics to achieve zero CO2 and waste by 2030; reach one million people through digital inclusion initiatives by 2025 and implement winning privacy and security strategies by 2023 to gain and maintain customers’ trust.
In 2020, as part of the business strategy review, Telia says it’s carried out an extensive stakeholder assessment to identify sustainability areas where the company could make a significant difference and have a strong impact.
This is all great stuff, but it’s going to get complicated for anyone who wants to aggregate each telco’s achievements and start ranking them on their overall sustainability effort. (There’s plenty more detail in this TTV story on Telia’s efforts and goals).
And the technology vendors?
Every enthused service provider probably needs at least one like-minded equipment provider to help it hit targets. The Cisco Foundation has made a biggish splash in the sustainability pool by announcing a $100 million commitment to ‘climate and sustainability projects’ over 10 years ($10 million a year).
It says it will move the needle on climate action with a focus on technology-based solutions around carbon reduction, climate resilience, green jobs, community education and so on and will achieve a meaningful impact by supporting early-stage, technology-based solutions with the potential to scale and be sustainable.
Cisco points out that while there’s a lot of noise around reversing climate change it’s been hard, so far, to turn that into meaningful financial support, partly because the task seems so enormous. As a result less than 2 per cent of all philanthropic giving is being spent on the climate fight and, as a result, bold climate solutions are not being developed. Cisco thinks it’s in a good position - with its technical capabilities and track record - to change all that and says its early funding approach will see excellent climate change results in the long run.
Chris Lewis of Chris Lewis Insights is sceptical about how useful and indeed accurate the current ways of measuring power consumption and its savings are.
“For one thing we keep talking about the power used by the mobile technology, ignoring the fact that most of the data journey is undertaken on the fixed network, so we’re probably measuring the wrong things.
“I think we’re going to have to be much more holistic and measure the complete network and all its consumption points instead of obsessing about the radio portion. I mean, how much more power does a radio network consume than a fixed fibre equivalent? My guess is it’s a lot more, but nobody seems to know. I think the industry will have to come together as a whole to really get to grips with the power issue,” he said.
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