Going Green: What Are Operators and Suppliers Doing to Get to Net Zero?

The telecoms industry regards itself as one of the most innovative, so why is it twice as polluting as aviation? If technology is the key to unlocking net zero, surely one of the most technologically advanced industries should be leading the way, shouldn’t it? According to a recent report, ICT and telecoms companies worldwide have a carbon footprint two times the size of the aviation industry. That’s a cause for concern, particularly as telecoms alone accounts for around 2% of global energy demand – a figure that’s only likely to increase as the world becomes more connected.

Our latest report, 7 Trends that Will Shape the Mobile Industry in 2022, talks in detail about what the telcoms industry should expect in the coming year. The report explores the increased targeting of mobile operators by nation-state threat actors, the increased prominence of hyperscalers and their foray into the mobile data space, and how 5G and Wi-Fi are slowly forging an unlikely partnership. Today, we’re talking about what strides operators are taking to make themselves more earth friendly and the driving force behind going green.

When paper straws won’t cut it

The green agenda isn’t new. For decades now, brands have been greenwashing and flashing their earth-friendly credentials to win the trust of consumers. For a while, getting rid of plastic straws was positioned as the answer to all of our environmental woes, and brands like Starbucks did a lap of honor before facing a terrible backlash from environmentally-savvy consumers.

Greenwashing worked for a time, but Millennials and Gen Z consumers are not only environmentally conscious but also extremely well informed. In fact, more than 85% of consumers cite a company’s lack of authentic green credentials as a reason for not making a purchase. In the telecoms sector, almost half (46%) of consumers say that environmental sustainability is either important or essential when it comes to their choice of provider. In other words, there’s work to be done.

What’s a telco to do?

We know that telcos without any authentic green credentials are less likely to win subscribers, but what’s a telco to do when it’s in one of the most environmentally damaging industries? Well, like all of us, they need to be the change they want to see in the world.

There have been reports recently that 5G is greener than 4G, and when you look at pure energy consumption that’s certainly true. But 5G opens the door to much more bandwidth, which in turn drives the adoption of hungry applications that are responsible for causing the problem in the first place. It’s like trying to solve traffic pollution by building more roads. No, this isn’t a laurel that telcos can rest easy on.

We have seen some arguably quite performative green initiatives have some cut-through with consumers, however. Reducing SIM card sizes to cut down on plastic, for instance, has now been widely adopted as a new standard. Vodafone’s device collection scheme is also influencing other telcos to take the initiative when it comes to recycling handsets.

The real potential for change, however, appears to lie in the setting of emission reduction targets.  Most leading operators have already pledged to switch to 100% renewable energy sources in the next few years, as well as rolling out more energy efficient technologies and practicing carbon offsetting.

Learn more about what green trends 2022 is likely to have in store for the telcoms industry by downloading this year’s report: 7 Trends That Will Shape the Mobile Industry in 2022.

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