British telecommunications giants join forces to tackle industry emissions

The UK’s largest connectivity providers have made a collective pledge to collaborate in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from the telecoms supply chain, in order to catalyse action prior to COP28.

British telecommunications giants join forces to tackle industry emissions

Twelve telecoms and network infrastructure companies convened at a roundtable meeting led by Ofcom and Accenture in May, to identify priority areas for collaboration in tackling GHG emissions within the supply chain.

Through the Digital Connectivity Forum’s Climate & Sustainability Work Group (DCF-CSWG), the 12 participants that have committed to driving industry consensus and action are BT, Cellnex, CityFibre, Hyperoptic, Openreach, Sky, TalkTalk, techUK, Three, Virgin Media O2, and Zen. They are being supported by the Energy Systems Catapult.

DCF’s head Alex Mather said: “We commend the collaborative commitment of these companies in reducing the climate impact of the telecoms sector. By understanding and addressing the complexities of the industry, we can pave the way for industry-wide transformation.

“The enthusiasm and support for the DCF’s climate working group are inspiring, and we look forward to their proposals ahead of COP28.”

It is estimated information and communications technology (ICT) sector contributes 3 to 4% of global CO2 emissions, with telcos accounting for 1.6% of the total. Telco companies attribute up to 90% of their emissions to indirect activities upstream and downstream, including the energy consumption of their suppliers.

The telco giants considered key areas within the value chain where the telco industry can have higher collective impact in reducing GHG emissions. These areas encompass Scope 3, including categories 1 and 2 (purchased goods & services and capital goods), as well as categories 11 and 13 (end-of-use of sold products and downstream leased assets).

As part of the strategy, the group will convene four additional times prior to the conclusion of COP28. These meetings will take place through the DCF-CSWG, fostering collaboration with the Net-Zero Steering Group, the DCF Advisory Council, and other organisations dedicated to addressing climate change.

TalkTalk’s head of sustainability and DCF-CSWG chair Will Ennett said: “Individual companies within the telecoms sector have long-established commitments at a company level, however the UK telecoms industry is a complex and interlinked system. It is therefore essential that the sector collaborates and works together to address these challenges and achieves industry-wide transformation.”

Accenture UK & Ireland sustainability lead Toby Siddall added: “Companies have a leading role in scaling the ambition of a more sustainable future into a reality.

“We will continue to support the members of the Digital Connectivity Forum with insights on embedding sustainability as a core objective in the communications industry.”

Accenture has set goals to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025; to switch to 97% renewable electricity in all locations by 2030, and to remove more than 13 million metric tonnes of CO2 using nature-based carbon removals over the next 20 years.

Ofcom’s director of strategy and policy Ed Leighton said: “Better understanding the supply chain is as critical for sustainability as it is for security, so this is the right focus. We look forward to seeing further specific proposals ahead of COP28.”

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