Green Telecom survey: Asian telcos unprepared for the carbon challenge

| January 2, 2008

It is clear from our first Green Telecom survey on climate change awareness in the Asia Pacific telecoms sector that, with the exception of a few leaders, the majority of operators in the region have yet to adopt any policy whatsoever to tackle what has been described as the greatest crisis facing human kind.

The Green Telecom survey consisted of an email sent to 40 operators 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 footprint? 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.

32 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.

What is abundantly clear from the responses is that those companies aware of the challenges of climate change have a clear understanding of the issue and have already started or completed the complex task of auditing their carbon footprint, as well as developing a carbon reduction strategy and setting clear targets for sustainable development.

It is fair to say that a portion of the respondents, due to language barriers, may have ignored the survey, 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.

Even among the operators that submitted responses, there is much disparity in the type of initiatives and the level of corporate policies adopted, and the targets they have set.

Targets and their measurements vary greatly for each operator. For example, BT pledges to reduce its emissions to 80% below 1996 levels by 2016. NTT DoCoMo, on the other hand, sets its target by taking a projected carbon emission for 2010, and pledging a 15% reduction on that number, or keeping its emissions below 1.17 million tonnes in 2010, from about 1.11 million tonnes for the year 2006-2007.

The methodologies deployed to reduce emissions also vary. BT claims great successes by reducing corporate travel and the increase use of conferencing, encouraging telecommuting by its staff, increasing energy efficiency of its network infrastructure and vehicle fleet and increasing use of renewable energy sources. NTT DoCoMo’s efforts focus on adopting more energy efficient base station installations, reducing waste through handset recycling programs, and the implementation of a green procurement program. Telstra measures its achievements in units of energy (joules) and is claiming success through more efficient practices and the use of renewable energy, namely as the biggest use of solar energy with 10,450 solar power sites.

Despite the different approaches, going green has yielded measurable benefits for the operators.
For the 2006/7 financial year, BT’s efforts, which cut 34,100 tonnes of emissions, roughly 5% of its 640,000 tonnes of total emission for the period, resulted in costs savings with an environmental component, such as travelling, of £229.3 million. Telstra’s improved energy-efficiency practices saved resulted in a direct saving of A$1.8 million in electricity bills.

BT, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, Telecom New Zealand, Australia’s Telstra and Optus, and Smart Communications in the Philippines were the six operators who responded to the Green Telecom Survey.

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